Chicken Little says, 'The sky is falling!'

OMG! The DTV sky is falling! The sky is falling! That seems to be the scuttlebutt from politicians and pundits as the analog cutoff date of Feb. 17 approaches.

“There may be 8 million households without TV service if we don’t do something,” said Senator Feather.

“Why, yes, I totally agree”, said Congresswoman Hen-Beak. “The sky is falling, and Congress must do something.”

The remainder of the barnyard chickens (collectively called Congress) all clucked, “Yes, yes, we must do something now. Quick, let’s throw money at it.”

If the issue of finally moving to all-digital OTA operations weren’t so important, we industry professionals could just laugh at those Washington idiots. To them, everything is a crisis, and every solution is to spend more of our money.

In my April 2008 editorial, “The blame game,” I predicted that the key players NAB, NTIA, Congress and the FCC would all be blaming each other for any DTV implementation problems. Guess what? The battle is now in full force. Everyone is crying for more money to be spent, blaming others for the looming deadline and asking why viewers haven’t complied by getting DTV converters.

One media pundit suggested his seven-part fix to the DTV change over. First, he wants the analog shutoff delayed for five months, out to Aug. 17. While some chickens in Congress are proposing a three-month extension, would two more months of delay accomplish anything? Most who know anything about such things say a delay would just make things worse.

The pundit’s second and third suggestions strike me as all political correctness and zero benefit. He wants to hire Colin Powell as the “Digital TV Czar” and Bill Cosby as the “Face of Digital TV.”

If I were either of these guys, I’d be insulted. First, Americans don’t like czars or what they connote. Second, Bill Cosby is loved by millions, and his image would only be tarnished by doing anything with the DTV conversion. Besides, how many months would it take Powell to do whatever a czar does and for Cosby to tape a dozen DTV promos?

Another of the pundit’s proposals is to raise the value of the DTV converter box coupons to $75. And he wants to limit coupons to only viewers making less than $75,000. Great ideas. Just watch the price of that formerly $59 box overnight zoom to $75. All this proposal does is give more taxpayer money to the retailers. And, as for limiting coupons to so-called “poor” people, GMAB. The people who can afford new DTVs are not grabbing up DTV converters, so any financial waste is minuscule. And, just how would we determine need? Oh, by using the IRS. These suggestions are just plain dumb.

Suggestions five and six amount to such an impossibility that it's hilarious. The pundit says the Consumer Electronics Association and electronics dealers should offer “free consulting services,” free DTV converter installation and even free TV antennas. All, of course, paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. Apparently, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VA, is already on the case and writing legislation that would subsidize the purchase of new rooftop antennas.

Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s use unemployed workers to install those millions of free antennas. That ought to employ a million or so people for months. Never mind those people wouldn’t know squat about DTV. But hey, it’d just be like most other government programs, good money thrown after bad.

Finally, the president is supposed to get involved, do some rah, rah speeches about DTV to get people excited about the conversion. Yeah, that’ll help.

I’ve got a better idea. Rather than spend another zillion dollars on any of the above, just leave the schedule alone. For those that dawdled, they’ll get the picture when their TV sets display only snow. That’s when they’ll get their lousy butts in gear and install converter boxes. Until then, all the puffery from congress, the president or anyone else will have zero effect.

The DTV sky is not falling.