The sky didn't fall

Well, Feb. 17 came and went. We’re still alive. The sky didn’t fall.

Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle, you know that Feb. 17 was the original analog shutoff date. More than 400 stations made that switch on time, and guess what? Armageddon didn’t occur.

Even so, Washington still managed to screw things up. At the last minute, politicians decided that further delay wouldn’t cost them anything, so they imposed one. And, the politicians knew that adding a delay would provide plenty of political cover if voters got mad about the transition. “Hey, don’t blame me,” they could say.

I’ve received a fair bit of mail on the DTV conversion, so let me share some of it with you. Here’s what Broadcast Engineering readers think of the delay:

Put on a ‘Joe Six-Pack’ disguise, and go visit some of the typical retail outlets that viewers in your market will shop for an antenna solution. Pretty slim pickings in most areas, I suspect. For example, the local Fry's here in North Dallas has a nice selection of UHF-only indoor antennas. Unfortunately, we have several high-VHF channels in this DMA. The floor staff doesn’t have a clue."

If the consumer has not understood the transition message by now, what makes the powers to be think that consumers will have it together by June 12? OK, so we will push it back another four months. Turn off the analog. If it is an emergency, the analog is off and the consumer needs EIS, let them turn on the radio. I would like to see this transition before I retire or ... [God] forbid worse."

Does the government have a clue how much it has cost the broadcast industry so far? Not only in the cost of new equipment, but in wasted energy for running two transmitters. Let’s not forget about the one-minute to half-hour informational PSAs some markets ran explaining everything from where to obtain a box to how to hook it up. The broadcasters could have used that time for paying sponsors."

Enough is enough. Complete the transition already. The procrastinators will only see snow. Then they can put their hands on the TV like little Carol Anne and say ‘They’re here.’"

They better just hope that someone with a converter box or the cable company shows up at their door to expel the demons that they may think turned off their TV signal."

How many station employees will lose their job just so stations can pay the unanticipated power bill for the analog transmitter? Since this is a government mandate, it should be government funded."

Here’s what OTA viewers say:

I have an analog TV, and I put a converter box on it, and I can get every station except Channel 11, which is one of my strongest analog stations. I do not understand this. Can you tell me why?"

The only positive I see from this delay is that it gives more time to those folks that have not quite figured out what to do with the boxes. I have helped about five seniors with the installation. There was no way in hell they would have completed the installation."

Readers responded to a recent Broadcast Engineeringarticle on Hawaii’s flash cut to digital — digital television’s “dirty little secret” is out in Hawaii. The cliff effect — the fact DTV either works well or doesn’t work at all — is affecting about 1000 homes across the eight volcanic islands of Hawaii.

A Broadcast Engineering reader replied: “Cliff effect? You don't suppose a drop in 6500ft of elevation might also have something to do with it?"

We in the industry realize that viewers don’t understand DTV reception technology. However, they won’t know anymore about it four months from now either.

The real outcome of having the new president force this delay is nothing less than a tax of $40,000 on each and every station that's “afraid of making Obama mad.”

Some 400 TV stations told the FCC and Obama to stuff it, and they turned off their analog transmitters. The world didn't end. One broadcaster said he got 22 calls. Another engineer told his GM the station got “no calls.”

So, what’s keeping you from making the all-digital switch? I’d love to know.