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Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Dec 1

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12/1/2008 4:32 AM  RssIcon

Editorial Cartoon, April 2008Before Thanksgiving, our elected idiots (in this case the Senate) passed by unanimous consent a bill allowing TV stations to “voluntarily” broadcast emergency information and informational messages about the DTV transition in analog for 30 days following the Feb. 17, 2009, DTV transition.

Called the "Short-term Analog Flash and Emergency Readiness Act" (S. 3663), it was introduced by no friend of broadcasters, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV. The law will allow analog transmission, subject to FCC limitations, of specific types of information, including:

• emergency information as carried by digital TV stations; and

• English- and Spanish-language, as well as that accessible by people with disabilities, messages concerning the DTV transition, including the fact that the transition has taken place and additional action is required to continue receiving TV and the steps viewers must take to receive DTV emergency information.

A similar measure was introduced by Rep. Lois Capps, D-CA, and awaits action in the U.S. House of Representatives. This is so much crap it stinks all the way to my office in Kansas City.

Does anyone with one-half a brain think broadcasters want to keep an analog transmission system up and running on the off chance there might be some kind of “emergency message.” And after analog has been dark for 30 days, why would anyone tune to snow expecting to suddenly see video?

If I were a TV station CE, on Feb. 18, I’d rip out that analog transmitter. That way, next time some worthless official says, “Hey, we’ve got something you have to broadcast in Spanish or with closed captions, blah, blah. Turn your analog transmitter back on,” it would give me great pleasure to respond, “What analog transmitter?”

Anyone still breathing recognizes Rockefeller’s (and the Senate’s) action for what is really is—political cover.

My April 2008 editorial predicted that politicians and industry groups would blame each other for any failures in a smooth DTV transition. This is yet another example of “Don’t blame me. Look at all I did.”

Congress held hearings, flapped their arms and then told the industry, “Do some trials, play some more PSAs.” The NAB responded with a campaign of PSAs and an unending litany of press releases touting the industry’s successful preparation for Feb. 17. The Bush White House gave the NTIA an additional $20 million for “education” about DTV. Yet, all House of Representatives Democrat John Dingell could say was, “I’m concerned about the size of the increase … We should not be attempting this transition on the cheap.”

Cheap? Mr. Dingle, How dare you call this transition “cheap.”

The only thing cheap is your slam at broadcasters who have worked for years building a modern digital transmission system only to be slapped in the face by ignorant politicians like yourself. And how have broadcasters profited from the DTV transition? They haven’t. America’s TV stations received not one dime from the government or anyone else in making the transition to digital.

The NAB estimates that $5 billion (in private money) has been spent by TV stations, building a national digital transmission system and getting ready for analog cut off. Nothing about this transition for broadcasters has been “cheap.” There’s been no bail out for our DTV costs. Congress didn’t give us any coupons.

Yet, Congress received tens of billions in the spectrum auctions by broadcasters. Perhaps Congress could cough up some money to help pay back broadcasters for these expenses? No, I didn’t expect you would.

To quote myself, “Bureaucrats and politicians are good at only two things: spending our money and avoiding blame.” The members of Congress continue to confirm that truth.

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