Democrats Toe the DTV Delay Line

Democrats are lining up with the Obama Administration on calling for a DTV delay. The governor of New York, David Paterson, threw his two cents into the game yesterday, saying as many as 500,000 state residents haven’t received the $40 federal DTV handout. The fed’s $1.34 billion allocated to subsidize digital-to-analog converter boxes ran dry earlier this month. As many as 556,000 New York households rely on over-the-air TV.

“Since New Yorkers have been forced onto a waiting list for coupons, the federal government cannot ensure that people will have the necessary equipment for a smooth transition unless the implementation of the new system is delayed,” Paterson said in a statement.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), new head of the House telecom subcommittee, and FCC Commissioner Michael Copps told folks in Bristol, Va., that the country isn’t ready for the big switch to digital television. TheKingsport Times-News quoted Boucher blaming the Bush Administration for not coughing up more converter box money. Boucher took the opportunity to be quoted that “Events have shown us that we were right, and [the Bush Administration] was wrong, but that doesn’t help us today.”

Neither will it help the Democrats Feb. 17, the current end date of analog broadcast TV. The schedule was crafted by Republicans, most notably, former Sen. Ted Stevens, who realized the original plan to switch on New Year’s Eve was not particularly brilliant given that Jan. 1 is a football holiday. Now, the Democrats are left holding the bag less than a month into the new administration, which called on Congress last week to delay the transition.

Copps, one of two Democratic commissioners at the FCC, said (as he has previously) that the government “dropped the ball” on the DTV transition. He noted that 1 million people are now on a waiting list for the converter subsidy coupons; that there aren’t enough converters in the market to cover everyone in time for the transition; and that converter manufacturers are running out of requisite parts.

“How can you ask citizens of the country to go through all of these hoops and at the end of the day you don’t have a converter box to give them?” the Times-News quoted Copps saying.

Meanwhile, in Austin, Texas, KVUE-TV reports the local Meals on Wheels group is soliciting converter box coupons. MoW wants to use donated coupons for their homebound clients, some of whom live “in isolation” on fixed incomes. The senior citizen service agency told KVUE that most of its clients didn’t apply for coupons because they lacked the technology to do so, and most couldn’t afford the full price of the box. Donated coupons can be mailed to:
Meals on Wheels and More
Attn: Sandy Bautista
3227 E. 5th St.
Austin, TX 78702