Remember the movie " Network?" Released 1976, it presented a frenetic and satirical view of a fictional television network, Union Broadcasting System (UBS), and its struggle with poor ratings. The single identifying element from this movie is the phrase, “I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" The UBS evening news anchor, Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, persuades the American TV audience to echo his frustrations about life by shouting the above phrase out their windows.
Today, broadcasters across the nation are lining up in force to tell the U.S. Congress the same thing, “We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore.”
After TV stations have each spent more than $1 million converting to digital and preparing for the FCC’s mandated Feb. 17 analog cutoff, Congress in its unbridled audacity has delayed analog shutoff another four months. Never mind that it will cost every full-power TV station another $40,000 in power bills.
This industry has spent more than $2 billion getting prepared for DTV. We are ready. So why delay it? Because politicians want to protect themselves from being seen as the cause for some viewers losing their analog television service. “We did everything we could to prevent this,” they’ll say.
Here in Kansas City, the stations have all decided to tell the FCC to stick it and will convert on Feb. 17, as scheduled. One news service reported that more than 400 other stations have made the same decision. They too will turn off their analog transmitter on Feb. 17. They too are saying, “I’m mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore.”
I’ve written before that this entire delay brouhaha is nothing but rotten politics. It has nothing to do with providing viewers with “severe weather warnings” or “disaster information.” Instead, it has everything to do with politicians trying to cover their political butts.
I watched the legislative process on C-SPAN and was appalled by the misleading and half-truth arguments put forth by the Democrat majority. The House majority claimed that “millions of Americans” would be prevented from receiving this important safety information if the analog conversion proceeded on schedule. “They won’t get needed disaster warnings,” the politicians claimed.
Oh, and the weather will be better on June 13? The middle of June is the height of severe weather season for most of the country. I don’t recall seeing forecasts of coming hurricanes, tornadoes or floods over the next week. But, in June, that will be another matter.
This isn’t an issue about getting or not getting severe weather warnings. It’s about elected representatives being dishonest with voters and building a defense against vote complaints with money.
Politicians recognize that some people are going to be angry when their TV sets go dark, and some will blame the politicians. The Democrat solution is twofold: First, delay the conversion and second, spend money. Then they can say, “Look at what we did; we delayed the process four months and spent $650 million. Now, let’s look at the money being spent, er, wasted."
According to Representative Lee Terry, R-NE, there are 10 million valid DTV coupons that have yet to be redeemed. At two coupons per household, that means 5 million households have usable DTV coupons. Nielsen says there are 6.5 million households without digital service. That means only 1.5 million TV households that have yet to receive a coupon or let their coupon expire or are not connected to another service.
To serve this minuscule audience, the Democrat majority voted to spend another $650 million for set-top box coupons. That means your government is spending $433 to give out a $40 coupon. That’s more than 10 times what the coupon is worth!
Fortunately, for broadcasters and viewers alike, many TV stations are rightfully telling Washington, “I’m mad as hell, I'm and not going to take it anymore.” Bring on digital!
I wrote the above blog on Feb. 6. As of that date, the "KC Star" newspaper reported that all Kansas City TV stations would go to full digital transmission on Feb. 17.
“My analog transmitter is on its last legs,” said KCTV general manager Kirk Black. “We’ve been doing as little maintenance as we can. These things are ready to die. We have to do this.”
Yet, only 24 hours later, Kansas City TV stations had suddenly changed their minds. All KC TV stations were now going to keep their analog transmitters on until June 12, the new shutoff date. Nielsen says only 4 percent of Kansas City viewers aren’t ready for DTV. Why spend the money for 4 percent of your audience?
Looking for a reason, I spied a quote in the Saturday newspaper: “ 'It’s a PC thing,' said KSHB-KMCI general manager Craig Allison, after learning that other stations had decided to honor the new DTV deadline. 'No one wants to make the new president mad.' ” All Kansas City TV stations will now keep analog running for another four months.
Now I get it. Political butt kissing.
That also explains why NAB supported the DTV delay. There was no downside for an organization that doesn’t have to pay a transmitter power bill. Go along with the delay. Don’t make the new president “mad.”
Never mind that this useless delay will cost American broadcasters $56 million dollars just to keep those old analog beasts running another four months.
But, today, it’s all about change, isn’t it? In this case, $56,000,000 in (someone else's) change.