Analog TV Switch Is Yet Another Federal Mandate

Today, June 12, 2009, is the last day that full-power television broadcasters in the United States can broadcast in analog signals.  By the end of the day, all stations will be broadcasting in digital only.  This means that anyone who has an older-model, non-cable television, will no longer be able to watch TV.  After today, they will be able to do so only by purchasing a new TV able to receive cable channels, or by purchasing a special converter box and hooking it up to their older model TV.

Has this process occured because the market dictated such a change, based on cost-benefit analysis or consumer demand?  No.  This happened simply because the federal government mandated that it take place.  In the same way that the government now dictates such heretofore private matters as what kind of toilet to have in your home and what kind of light bulbs you can use, Uncle Sam has now told you what kind of TV you can have.

This all came about because a Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation in 2005 mandating that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order all full-power TV stations to cease broadcasting in analog by February 18th this year (later extended to June 12th).  Of course, a Republican President (George W. Bush) signed the measure into law .  .  .  and here we are.

The 2005 law also sets out a ridiculous — and costly — program whereby the government will dole out coupons to requesting households (worth $40 each; limit two per household) which consumers can then use to defray the cost of purchasing the converter units.  Of the more than $2 billion in direct costs of this program, the Treasury Department is authorized to spend $160 million of our tax dollars just to “administer” the coupon program. 

As we all know, the former, Bush administration moved on to much larger efforts to control the economy, culminating in last fall’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).  With the Republicans having put together such costly and intrusive mandates as these, from which the new, Democratic administration can draw lessons and use as precedent, it should surprise no one that the Barack Obama Administration is now itself dictating and controlling markets (e.g., Chrysler and GM). 

With the Republicans and the Democrats, it’s just a matter of the degree of control; not whether to control.

80 comments Add your comment

nathan

June 12th, 2009
7:18 am

Well the fcc has pretty much always controlled the airwaves, so how else are they suposed to keep up with the demands of today’s media driven culture? We need that analog range for other uses, and only gopvernment has the power to do that.

P

June 12th, 2009
8:16 am

The idea of going to digital is probably a good one. The execution and cost to get there is typical government failure. The “trend” of government control is real and should be viewed with great skepticism.

For the few million who are either too stupid or lazy to have prepared for the switch I have no sympathy and wish the media and government would quit talking about it. Let’em learn the hard way! I don’t want my government always looking out for a few on every dang thing!

williebkind

June 12th, 2009
8:20 am

I am a digital fan. That was a good mandate. No one has to have a TV.

Gasoline, which is needed for many purposes suchas going to work, has no mandate for drilling or keeping prices down. Bob, I think you should put more effort in assisting the citizens in having low energy prices than promoting an ideology.

Jack

June 12th, 2009
8:27 am

Two duly elected administrations decided this was a good change. Unless there is some harm done, I will accept smart governments choices. I don’t think there is some kind of conspiracy to remove the TV controls from our dependent hands, do you?

CJ

June 12th, 2009
8:35 am

Well, we certainly wouldn’t want to advance technology, now would we?

When the government required seat belts of a certain design and ability for vehicles, they didn’t say you couldn’t continue driving old cars without or with less safe seat belts. It was in the public’s best interests to buy cars that were safer.

With TV’s – digital is better quality, so there’s no need to continue servicing low quality TV sets when the manufacturers are only producing higher quality, digital TVs going forward.

bob

June 12th, 2009
8:39 am

The switch may not be a bad idea but the problen is the gov spent millions to help people cover the transition. The figures thrown around would have covered the purchase of brand new tv’s for all that recieved just a converter box. Why is it the taxpayers that had to cover the cost of converter boxes.

The Snark

June 12th, 2009
9:15 am

OMG, Bob, the federal government is … governing. What next? Publicly financed roads? Inspections of restaurant kitchens? Save me from the nanny state, Bob!

Sam

June 12th, 2009
9:32 am

Snark, Why don’t you suck up to the nanny state you dumb sucker.

sane jane

June 12th, 2009
9:36 am

I usually like BB’s blog but this post is dumb.

sane jane

June 12th, 2009
9:38 am

It also shows the growing disconnect between the haves & the have-nots. I can think of a few hundred people who I know well enough to ascertain their “cable situation” and can count on ONE HAND the people who don’t have cable & get their signal over-air.

sane jane

June 12th, 2009
9:40 am

Sam, does that mean you are anti-restaurant inspection? Who peed in your cornflakes?

(seriously) (it happens) (Tyler Durden taught us that people pee in the bisque, fart on the meringue, etc.)

Peadawg

June 12th, 2009
9:42 am

Oh geeze, Bob. This is one of your dumber posts!!! I agree w/ williebkind. Why don’t you write a blog about raising oil prices that Obama said he would keep down? Yet, here we go again…it’ll be 4.00 a gallon by August.

sane jane

June 12th, 2009
9:50 am

Is Bob really whining about government “dictating” what kind of lightbulbs you can use?

When 90% of the power consumed to light a regular incandescent (filament) bulb is emitted at HEAT (rather than light/lumens), I think it might be ok for government to say “hey, we can do better than that.”

JM

June 12th, 2009
9:55 am

If Bob has a problem with this, then I have to believe that he would have a problem with just about anything.

sane jane

June 12th, 2009
10:00 am

Well said, JM.

Eric

June 12th, 2009
10:17 am

Bob, this is idiotic. That you contemplated the many available topics and decided that this was worthy clearly illustrates your intellectual bankruptcy. The free market takes changes like cats take pills – it’s painful, the cat frequently runs away repeatedly, the whole process takes a very long time and in the end no-one is happy. For an example of what happens when the market is allowed to make a decision without any government interference check out cell phone service in the US – ‘nuf said. Don’t be a mental midget, Barr.

The Snark

June 12th, 2009
10:42 am

Hey SAM:

Did you think that comment up all by yourself, or just copy it off the bathroom wall at the Open Campus High School? Seriously, dude, that’s lame, even by the standards of AJC blogs.

Also, Sam: You shouldn’t capitalize the second word in a sentence, even if it follows a comma, and you should have added a comma after “state.”

Michael H. Smith

June 12th, 2009
10:43 am

To control or not to control, no longer remains the question. Better to ask who is not in control?

That would be We the People.

You are very correct Bob Barr and right on target. What we have for a government currently is two dirty wings (Democrat and Republican) on one bird (our government).

Though I disagree with several major parts of the Libertarian Party plank, I do support busting up the total control being exercised by the Democrats and the Republicans of our government.

Hopefully, third or fourth political parties will emerge to restore power to the people, as we rightly should be the ones in control of our government.

ugacpa02

June 12th, 2009
10:44 am

Bob’s right in that no taxpayer money should have been spent on this. I don’t mind the transition because apparently bandwidth constraints are being freed up that are going to emergency services, so that’s good. However no coupons or purchasing of airtime for public awarness ads should have been involved.

booger

June 12th, 2009
10:47 am

What is hard to believe is that with two years of warning, then Obama gave another six months, large numbers of people have not installed a converter box. I watched the news last night as community activist were canvassing a neighborhood in South Atlanta where 40% of the people were not prepared for the change.

In this area the activist had arranged free transportation to stores where the boxes could be purchased, had given everyone who asked a coupon for a free box, and still the day before the conversation 40% had done nothing. At this point the community workers were actually going into homes and connecting the boxes.

We have created a segment of society where absolutely no personal responsibility is required or expected. If I need it you should provide it, and please deliver it to my doorstep.

Michael H. Smith

June 12th, 2009
10:49 am

Anything our government does will spend (our) taxpayer money. Government can only confiscate wealth, our wealth, in order to pay for what it does or fails to do.

We the taxpaying consumers eventually pay for everything.

Chris

June 12th, 2009
10:50 am

You people are missing the point! The point of this article is not just digital television or light bulbs or toilets, it is the way the federal, state and local governments continue to pervade our daily lives. What business does the government have in controlling airwaves in the first place? Did they discover them? Did the gov’t invnet the TV? No, then by what right do they have to control them? What right does the gov’t have to tell me what height my grass must be? What right does the gov’t have in telling me what I can and cannot buy on a certain day of the week? What right does the gov’t have in telling me whom I can marry? These, and many more, are not the areas the gov’t should be involved in. The federal gov’ts only jobs are to regulate disputes between states and secure and defend our country. All other powers are regulated to the states and the people. Wake up people, wake up!

Justin

June 12th, 2009
10:56 am

Why is the federal government dictating how I watch TV? Truly asinine.

oldmac

June 12th, 2009
11:01 am

The changeover should have proceeded the free market fashion with the fastest stations to convert to digital having a competitive advantage (along with the digital set manufacturers.) The only reason they did it this way is so the so called “poor” didn’t get left behind. Heck, if I’m poor the last thing I need to be doing is watching TV. As for the $40 coupons, no one offered me any help when the market switched from Lp’s and Cassettes to Compact discs and I had to go buy one of them new-fangled CD players. It must suck being helpless.

JB

Noway

June 12th, 2009
11:05 am

Honestly…we have bigger fish to fry then Digital vs. Analog. I could care less about the analog waves when we the country is close to losing its AAA credit rating. We lose this folks we are screwed. We will become no better then the second world nations and will fall behind countries like China for god sake. US needs to STOP printing money and people in this country need to take ownership of their personal lifes and not rely on our government for every freaking hand out!!!

Michael H. Smith

June 12th, 2009
11:08 am

The federal gov’ts only jobs are to regulate disputes between states and secure and defend our country.

Some people have woke up (912′ers, Tea Party, etc.) and so have some States to challenge the unconstitutional Federal power grab.

Michael H. Smith

June 12th, 2009
11:17 am

Get ready Noway, Public healthcare the mother of all freaking hand outs is on its way and government will define what is your personal responsibility.

Eat that candy bar and it will cost you an extra $1,000 a year!

Add this public healthcare program cost to the $12.8 trillion our government has already spent, lent out or committed and that should finish off whatever remained of a AAA credit rating.

Don't Like Government? Move somewhere else!

June 12th, 2009
11:20 am

The “guvrmint” isn’t invading anyone’s life. This myth of the rugged individual “self-made” and all that b.s. is really boring. All of these people commenting as if they really wish, or believe we arte living in the Wild Wild West…Little House On The Prairie days is sad too.

But the thing that is saddest of all is that both these so-called individualist and Bob Barr are factually wrong about who is behind this mandate. Congress enacted the legislation sure, but it was the corporations that told them to do it!

So you see, Bob Barr’s lamentation about the lack of a market dictated such a change, based on cost-benefit analysis or consumer demand is laughable because as a former bribe-taker..er…Congressman, he knows full well that the rich and powerful dictate to the rule makers therefore there is no “free market”. It is only a myth fed to the gullible like those who call others stupid and dumb while continuing to let the rich and powerful screw working and middle class folks.

It’s class warfare and people like Bob Barr and many of the commenters here are the ones that are responsible. They continually vote in politicians that allow these corporations and rich people to run things and then they get upset the minute the country votes for anyone who wants to do anything for the people.

So, when you read these comments about the supposed wrongs done by the government, you know that you are reading the writings of a tool. These tools are the enemy of the very free market they claim to want.What they really want is to be patrons of the rich and of corporations. People working for the common good..they’re bad! People working to turn a profit for a very small few…we like them!!

Very. Sad. Enjoy the chaos that is coming with this switch over.

JD

June 12th, 2009
11:22 am

Bob Barr is such a loser…You think since Obama won he’d be happy to have his first black President. However, I guess he thought it should have been him….:D

Michael H. Smith

June 12th, 2009
11:23 am

If government can control what we watch on TV, what we read over the Internet, listen to on the radio and read in the print media, then we will become government controlled zombies.

Chris

June 12th, 2009
11:23 am

Michael Smith:

Only when We the People decide to vote these people out of office and stand up for our rights as citizens and when the general public realizes that there is no such thing as “the public good” or “public welfare”, only then will this country begin to exit the socialist fog we have been in since 1932.

Michael H. Smith

June 12th, 2009
11:29 am

Don’t Like Government? Move somewhere else!

Now that truly is boring. Our ruddy individualists founders found it more entertaining to stay put and move the government they didn’t like, somewhere else!

The Oddball

June 12th, 2009
11:29 am

Friends, a few simple points:

– The government regulates access to the airwaves because it is limited. You can only have so many broadcast signals in one area before they start interfering with each other. The “free market” would not prevent people from jamming or interfering with each others’ signals. Unless you want to see or hear two different stations simultaneously on each particular channel or radio frequency, this kind of government regulation is a good thing.

– The switch from analog to digital was mandated because it will allow many more broadcasters to fit into the available broadcast spectrum. That’s more private companies being given the right to broadcast. That’s more competition in the market. Again, unless you’re just a die-hard ideologue or an anarchist, this kind of government regulation is a good thing.

–The Oddball is also a little bemused by government funded support for converting obsolete televisions. But look at it this way: in all tyrannical states, the goal is to LIMIT the citizens’ access to private broadcast media, not expand it. So, while I question the use of taxpayer funds to pay for converter boxes, at least the policy is aimed in the right direction.

Anyone disagree?

sedimenjerry

June 12th, 2009
11:31 am

Usually I agree with you but good grief it’s 2009. Repairs to analog equpiment from 50 years ago is costly.
Besides, per channel Digital uses less bandwidth. This allows for more channels and higher quality (HD) signals.
Keeping analog would mean having to adapt Technology around that. All digital just makes it easier for higher quality TV.

Toni

June 12th, 2009
11:34 am

I haven’t had a television in years. Don’t miss it. I don’t however, think taxpayer funds should be used for this.

suwanee

June 12th, 2009
11:36 am

“If government can control what we watch on TV”

The government is NOT controlling what we watch on tv.

RD

June 12th, 2009
11:36 am

For all you commenting on how this post is “dumb”…you are missing Bob’s point – the government needs to let the free-market decide. That is the point of capitalism – but Washington bureaucrats (Repub and Democrat) think they have a better way, and want to FIX everything.

I agree with Bob Barr – this is just another case of government waste, which pales in comparison to the socialist moves from the current administration.

SC Ace

June 12th, 2009
11:42 am

The point is this. There was, to my knowledge, nothing prohibiting TV stations from choosing to go to a digital-only signal. If a station had wanted to do so, they could have. I think Barr chose this topic because it is timely and in the news and illustrates another example of government interference into matters in which it just isn’t needed (or permitted by the Constitution to tread). People don’t realize that the point of the Constitution is to proscribe what government can do, to provide boundaries it may not cross.

Barr’s second reason for this example is to show that this is the result of Republican government (the party that supposedly believes in limited government – I suppose that is true only when viewed in relation to the other party’s even greater urge to inflate the role of government).

My other question is this: When did television become a God-given right and basic necessity of life to begin with?

Michael H. Smith

June 12th, 2009
11:43 am

Uh… Chris you may have to go back a little further in time than 1932 in order to make that exit from such things of concern as the “public welfare”. Promoting the public welfare is actually mandated in the Constitution.

In fact, it is one of the reasons that appears in the preamble to the Constitution for having written the very document.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, “promote the general welfare”, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I would agree that there is a very big difference between “promoting the general welfare” and that of “generally providing welfare”.

Barry Blakely

June 12th, 2009
11:43 am

Some times it’s not what is good or bad for us, the question is really, should the government be making that choice for us? or even, should the government be taking control of American industries…the auto industry…the banking industry…or even the cigarette industry (as it did yesterday)?

Do any of you readers ever study socialism in school? Does anyone know how wonderful life is in countries under commusism? Bush did his share, and our present President doesn’t seem content to leave office in anything less than a totally socialistic state.

McGroots

June 12th, 2009
11:47 am

What business does the government have in controlling the airwaves?

Imagine what would happen if two or three or thirty stations (TV or Radio) all tried to broadcast their signals on the same frequency?

Life isn’t quite as simple as sound-bite politics makes it out to be.

Michael H. Smith

June 12th, 2009
11:49 am

The government is NOT controlling what we watch on tv.

Oh but of course not Suwanee, that’s why we have an FCC so they can’t regulate the public airwaves. :)

RD

June 12th, 2009
11:50 am

Well-stated Barry Blakely. Bush disappointed conservatives, but this current president has an agenda to “level” the playing field for all Americans – through socialist methods…..Lenin would be proud.

Michael H. Smith

June 12th, 2009
11:50 am

Barry Blakely, we agree.

Harry

June 12th, 2009
11:53 am

Bob Barr has never liked mandates!

When he was younger, we had a mandate called The Draft. Bob avoided that mandate.

His religion has a mandate against adultery, but Bob has ignored that mandate on several occasions too.

General gun safety has a mandate requiring the safety handling of pistols, but Bob almost shot a guest at his house. Accidently of course, he was just ignoring another mandate.

So, why is anything said by Rush, Newt, Cheney or Bob Barr worth printing or repeating on the TeeVee?

JP

June 12th, 2009
12:02 pm

The switch was made to free up the analog wave lengths for other uses, since there is only limited space. It was a smart move. But, sadly, my mother living in Oconee County can only get two channels on the digital signal now; she has too many trees in the yard for a satellite and cable does not run to her home.

Michael H. Smith

June 12th, 2009
12:13 pm

There you have made my one big objection to this digital transition, JP. It was poorly orchestrated and failed to included outlaying area’s. There are antennas available that do help, though, some means of relaying, boosting signals strengths to these outlaying area’s is needed. Digital TV offers a golden opportunity to provide a good number of needful things. One would be a greater focus in delivering educational broadcast 24/7 to every level of learning.

vdawg

June 12th, 2009
12:17 pm

There are some relevant facts missing in this article. The govt made the transition so that they could sell spectrum, there was an auction for this spectrum and it was sold. Some was retained for public use such as emergency responders. A portion of the money raised in the auction was used to pay for people to get tv converter boxes. The tax payer has actually made money on this deal. If you don’t want to buy a new tv, you get a converter box, no big deal. The quality and reception are much better on the new tv signals. It did not cost any consumer any money due to the converter box coupon and tv stations can now transmit more channels than before. There is a cost to tv stations though and I have not seen that quantified.
You have to live in a cave or be a complete idiot not to have heard about this. If you have not tv tomorrow, it is your fault.

Michael H. Smith

June 12th, 2009
12:30 pm

It did not cost any consumer any money due to the converter box coupon and tv stations can now transmit more channels than before. There is a cost to tv stations though and I have not seen that quantified.

PUHLEASE! Do you also believe corporations pay taxes? So where do these corporation get the money to pay those taxes if not from we taxpaying consumers who buy their products or services?

Who pays the costs for redeeming those converter box discount coupons?

Where does the money come from to make up the costs to these TV stations?

You have to live in a cave to believe that all the costs don’t eventually get paid by we the taxpaying-consumers.

Will we get our money’s worth? That remains debatable.

Mike Licht

June 12th, 2009
12:30 pm

The Digital TV transition is no trouble at all if your cables are correctly polarized. Go to Screen 47 of the DTV Converter Box On-Screen Installation Guide and use the resident GPS to correctly align your antenna for each channel, allowing for local ionospheric conditions, and ARRRGGGHH!

Technical reference:

http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2009/06/12/tv-d-day-usa