DTV delayed redux: Leave it to the politicians to screw up things

Last Monday (Jan. 26), the Senate by unanimous consent (which means no recorded votes) approved Jay Rockefeller’s, D-WV, bill that would “allow stations to keep their old transmitters turned on until June 12.” That’s how CNN reported the action. Allow stations to keep their old transmitters on. Yep, and at the tune of $10,000 per month in electricity costs, I’ll bet every station out there is really happy to be allowed to spend that money for another four months.

NAB’s response to the four-month delay was a one-page press release:

NAB supports legislation passed unanimously by the full Senate that moves the DTV deadline to June 12, while providing flexibility to local stations in adjusting to the new date. We are especially appreciative of the tireless efforts of Commerce Committee Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member Hutchison in crafting the compromise bill.

Local broadcasters and our network partners are proud of the unprecedented billion dollar educational effort we have undertaken to ensure that our viewers are prepared for the switch to digital, and we are grateful for policymaker efforts that underscore over-the-air television's importance in the fabric of American life. The DTV legislation now moves to the House. NAB salutes the leadership of Commerce Committee Chairman Waxman and his colleagues and we look forward to swift passage of this bill.

Maybe I missed the memo, but I thought NAB meant National Association of Broadcasters. Exactly what broadcaster was the NAB supporting in this stance?

Were I a TV station manager or CE, I’d be really mad both with Congress and the NAB. Seems neither has a bone in their back to stand up to the new administration and these pandering politicians.

The afore mentioned power costs are but part of a station’s expense to complete the digital conversion. Many stations also must modify towers and antennas. These companies have contracts with tower crews, manufacturers and others for expensive RF work to be completed right after the shutoff. This work was scheduled for mid-February, but now what? Who pays for breaking these contracts? Or, can the contract be voided because the delaying event is an "Act of God?" Oops, I forgot. Yes, it can.

While this industry’s lobbying and representatives are busy kissing Obama’s ring finger, television stations are left to fend for themselves.

You can blame this situation on Senator Rockefeller. Speaking in support of his bill he said (my emphasis added in bold):

Delaying the upcoming DTV switch is the right thing to do. I firmly believe that our nation is not yet ready to make this transition at this time.

The way I see it, right now we have a choice. We can do the DTV transition right or we can do it wrong. But the shameful truth is that we are not poised to do this transition right.

We are only weeks away from doing it dreadfully wrong and leaving consumers with the consequences. It is no secret that the outgoing administration grossly mismanaged the digital television transition. The coupon program that was designed to help consumers defray the cost of converter boxes to ensure the continued functioning of their analog television sets has a waiting list of over 2 million. This number will multiply to millions more in the weeks ahead. Making a difficult situation even worse, we also face the frightful specter of converter box shortages.

How long will the Democrats continue to blame the previous administration for every perceived ill in the world? These guys were in control of both the House and Senate for the last two years. Senator Rockefeller, if you didn’t like the DTV bill, you had two years to change it. But you didn’t.

Of course, the FCC’s two Democrat commissioners Michel Copps (now acting chairman) and Jonathan Adelstein also "express our deep concern" that the country is "nowhere near" ready for the signal switch. In their letter, the commissioners called for a delay, which would give the government more time to get "boots on the ground."

Please! Even the military would object to that kind of symbolism. Do these two guys mean for Obama to send storm troopers to each non-DTV home armed with a DTV converter? “You, will take this DTV converter box and install it on your TV right now!”

Fortunately, Rockefeller’s bill was defeated in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Jan. 28. However, Waxman has promised to again call for a House vote this week.

Americans ought to tell the liberal whiner from California and his political duck-and-cover types to stuff it.