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Breaking News: Senate passes another DTV Delay Act, Goes to House Floor


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#51 OFFLINE   njblackberry

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 11:10 AM

Does anyone else find it ironic that a bill mandating a change in broadcast technology is associated with the "Communications Act of 1934"?

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#52 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 11:15 AM

No, that was the law that allowed for the creation of the NTSC rules for broadcasting. It remains the pertinent legal precedent until the ATSC rules take effect, although it was superseded by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which established the ATSC. It did not take an act of Congress to mandate the standards for color or stereo, because they did not interfere with the ability of mono, B&W TVs to get reception.
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#53 OFFLINE   loudo

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 11:36 AM

When I checked SFGate, SacBee, KCRA, KXTV, and KOVR news sites, no mention of this new bill. Hmmmm.... gotta check NY Times and LA Times.

Senate passed it last night and House to take it up next week.
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#54 OFFLINE   jazzyjez

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 11:40 AM

It was interesting reading the FCC document that's presumably at the heart of this request for the setback. In part, this is because I live in the Wilmington area that made the transition last September... the writer extrapolates the number of inquiries received here to the entire country, to get a figure of 2.2 million households needing some help. Based on that, it would seem prudent to have some delay -- but as was already pointed out, since in many cases that would just delay the inevitable (i.e. those that don't know now, still won't know in one month or n months) -- so why not have a staggered delay? This could either be by State or time-zone. (Actually there has probably been a lot more information available since our September transition, so that estimate should have been reduced.)

My own experience has been good -- but less than perfect: like many on this forum, I consider myself a little ahead-of-the-curve, and have set up a couple of new, reasonably high quality antennas and cabling. These two antennas go to each of my HR20 receivers without any splitters, and in one case the cable run is only ~ 20ft. I get a reasonable high level signals -- on average -- across all channels, but if there is any wind (> 20mph), then frequent pixellation and loss of audio is likely. And this is in winter with relatively little foliage around. As spring approaches I anticipate there will be a significant rise in the number of complaints. Since my signal levels are good, it seems most likely that this is multi-path interference -- having read up on this somewhat, I'm inclined to think that the ATSC choice of 8VSB as its modulation system was actually a rather poor one -- we'll see, but there are numerous reports that highlight the weakness of that system compared to COFDM (which is why that was chosen by more-or-less every other country!).

#55 OFFLINE   scooper

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 11:51 AM

It was interesting reading the FCC document that's presumably at the heart of this request for the setback. In part, this is because I live in the Wilmington area that made the transition last September... the writer extrapolates the number of inquiries received here to the entire country, to get a figure of 2.2 million households needing some help. Based on that, it would seem prudent to have some delay -- but as was already pointed out, since in many cases that would just delay the inevitable (i.e. those that don't know now, still won't know in one month or n months) -- so why not have a staggered delay? This could either be by State or time-zone. (Actually there has probably been a lot more information available since our September transition, so that estimate should have been reduced.)

My own experience has been good -- but less than perfect: like many on this forum, I consider myself a little ahead-of-the-curve, and have set up a couple of new, reasonably high quality antennas and cabling. These two antennas go to each of my HR20 receivers without any splitters, and in one case the cable run is only ~ 20ft. I get a reasonable high level signals -- on average -- across all channels, but if there is any wind (> 20mph), then frequent pixellation and loss of audio is likely. And this is in winter with relatively little foliage around. As spring approaches I anticipate there will be a significant rise in the number of complaints. Since my signal levels are good, it seems most likely that this is multi-path interference -- having read up on this somewhat, I'm inclined to think that the ATSC choice of 8VSB as its modulation system was actually a rather poor one -- we'll see, but there are numerous reports that highlight the weakness of that system compared to COFDM (which is why that was chosen by more-or-less every other country!).



At this point that debate is dead and buried. I would advise not bringing it up again. We have what we have.
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#56 OFFLINE   KTMCDO

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 11:59 AM

the people cant afford a lowcost
digital converter box give me a friggin break

#57 OFFLINE   snowcat

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 12:20 PM

If the House does approve of the delay next week, there are going to be a lot of confused consumers on Feb 17/18. I can see headlines reading "Congress delays digital transition till June" and then the local stations shut off their analog anyway.

I wrote my Representative to vote against the delay, for all the good that it will do me. I guess I can only worry about myself and my extended family, and they are all set.

#58 OFFLINE   spedinfargo

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 12:26 PM

Commercials, what commercials, I mean since I have 4 DVRS I never watch commercials... Maybe you should upgrade your receivers then you won't have to watch those things.... I mean DVRS have been around for 10+ years you mean you haven't got atleast one yet?


It's not commercials for me that's the problem - our local stations run a crawler on top the first 30-60 seconds of each prime-time show with the information (even on my DirecTV SD feed). The worst part about it is that they don't have the equipment to do so properly so it kicks my HD OTA feed down to SD while they're running the crawl... sucks.

#59 OFFLINE   phox_mulder

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 12:26 PM

Most of the broadcasters in Utah decided yesterday to switch off on Feb 17th come what may.

The UBA (Utah Broadcasters Association) got together and voted, the two PBS stations are the only holdouts citing the Federal Money they get as one of the reasons (although not stated in the article below).

Feb. 17 is still D-Day for Utah viewers unprepared for the switch to digital television.

That's when most of the state's television stations are planning to shut off their analog signals in the switch to all-digital TV, the president of the Utah Broadcasters Association said Thursday.

Representatives from the state's eight affiliates met to decide whether to honor a new deadline extension if Congress passes a bill that pushes the date to June 12.

Commercial stations -- KUTV Channel 2, KTVX Channel 4, KSL Channel 5, KUCW Channel 30, KSTU Channel 13 and KJZZ Channel 14 -- agreed they will shut off their signals on the original Feb. 17 date.

"We want to shut down together," said UBA President Dale Zabriskie. "It's because of cost. We feel that no matter how long you put this off, not everyone is going to be ready. We think you can wait until June 12 and there still will be people who haven't taken action."

Meanwhile, the state's two public stations, KUED Channel 7 and KBYU Channel 11, say they will wait longer to make the transition and perhaps abide by the June 12 deadline.

"Congress and the president are saying it's a good idea, and we're public television," said KUED general manager Larry Smith. "But we're torn between the public-service thing and if it's good to keep [the analog signal] going while everyone else is off."


http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_11584425


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#60 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 12:40 PM

Eh, Who cares.... Not a big problem for anyone on this forum... Is anyone going to die or even loose sleep if your analog chanel stays lit longer? Like I've said before all your locals should be digitial aswell by now.....

As noted, often, in order for many stations to get to their best digital signals on the air they will need to kill their analog signals or neighboring stations will need to kill their analog signals. Right now Digital TV is LIMITED by the existence of analog TV. The quicker analog goes away, the better.

My locals are digital, but they are not as good as they will be once analog goes away. And while most people here are satellite subscribers, getting HD often means a local antenna trying to pick up an OTA signal. Lingering analog DOES affect us.

#61 OFFLINE   jpl

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 12:41 PM

My comments are:

1. Some TVs don't have a coax input. They'll also need an adapter.
2. What about VCRs? You'll also have to train people how to use their VCR in a different way. And did they buy a converter box with timers for VCR use?
3. That tiny print scrolling across the bottom of the screen can't be read by many people due to poor eyesight.
4. That tiny print scrolling across the bottom of the screen can't be read by many people because while they may understand conversational English, they have no idea what many of the words in the scroll mean.
5. That tiny print scrolling across the bottom of the screen can't be read by many people because while English is their only language, they have no idea what many of the words in the scroll mean.
6. Some people's most complex electronic device is the TV. The toaster is the next most complex electronic device they own. My Grandma has never owned or driven a car, doesn't own a VCR or microwave, and doesn't even own a toaster. For her, the bedside clock is the next most complex device she owns. And she can't set the time on it.
7. Some people may need new antennas. Their old antennas may be fine now, but they may need new antennas on the cutoff date. They may now need to be installed outdoors. In the middle of winter.
8. Some broadcasters may need more time. My digital signals go out all day once a week on my FOX and CBS affiliates.
9. Some people are physically unable to install the new box due to medical issues.
10. The message of "perform a rescan on Feb. 17" isn't getting out to anybody. In many areas, rescans will have to be performed. I think this would cut down on a lot of the phone calls.

I also know of at least 12 people who still do not understand the analog shutdown is taking place. I've tried explaining it to them, and they just don't get it. And only four of them have cable.


And a delay of 4 months is going to help these people... how? Nevermind the fact that this bill will still allow stations to shut down their analogs if they want. If this whole situation is confusing now, can you imagine if you see the news that there's been a 4 month extension, and you wake up on the 18th, you find that your stations are shut off anyway? How in the world does this delay help? THAT'S the question that Congress needs to answer. No one has convinced me, yet, that the problem with all this is that there hasn't been enough time for people to get ready. If that was the issue then I would agree with a delay. That isn't the problem - so a delay isn't going to help. It will just cost more money, and make things even more confusing.

#62 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 01:02 PM

When the official transition occurs will all stations simply shut off their analog signals?

Just over 800 stations qualify to continue analog service for 30 days beyond the deadline (current or changed) with transition information and any emergency information (should an emergency occur).

Very few stations have expressed interest in remaining on the air beyond February 17th. Over 300 stations have already silenced analog or will by or on February 17th.

#63 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 01:08 PM

Is is possible that the low power stations will have to still adhere to that original date which will be earlier than June 12? What I don't know is if the low-power rule is an FCC thing vs. a legislative thing.

There is no date set for ending analog low power/translator service.

The FCC began accepting translator applications at the beginning of the month for post-transition digital translators to "fill in" any coverage lost between analog and digital patterns. But there is no date certain for ending LP analog.

Getting the full power analogs out of the way would help end the LP analogs.

#64 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 01:21 PM

Most of the broadcasters in Utah decided yesterday to switch off on Feb 17th come what may.

The UBA (Utah Broadcasters Association) got together and voted, the two PBS stations are the only holdouts citing the Federal Money they get as one of the reasons (although not stated in the article below).



http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_11584425


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#65 OFFLINE   hasan

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 01:52 PM

Threre is no question there are going to be problems with the transition, no matter what date is involved. Many people (and I deal with them daily), don't understand ANYTHING about the transition and the implications of going digital versus just turning on a TV and changing to a channel number (as under the analog system). No amount of time is going to help these people. They need to be instructed "by the numbers" how to do it. This isn't going to change.

The best justification for the delay was given by Press Secretary Gibbs in the daily briefing today:

It was recommended by the transition group (whoever they are) to delay because:

1. They are over a million coupons short of current need.
2. The call center (FCC) that was set up to allow people to order the coupons via telephone was grossly underpowered, and left many with no "simple" way to get coupons.

Both of these are seen as "no fault" of the consumer, but rather of the system that was set up to serve them.

What doesn't make any sense at all, if the above two points are accurate, is allowing the digital switch over to take place on the 17th of Feb, on a station by station basis. If a given locality decides en mass, to switch on the 17th anyway, it leaves those afflicted by 1 and 2 above with no recourse.

What does make sense is to mandate a push back of the date to June 12, or whenever they can make 1 and 2 above non-factors.

I don't like it, but I do understand what they are trying to do, as poorly thought out as it appears to be. Either we go forward and let those left out deal with it, or we push it back until the "no faulters" can be included. Doing it half-baked is going to mess a lot of people up and as a result, they will have even less confidence that the government can get anything right (if that's even possible):)

Maybe we can use some of the bail-out bucks to compensate stations for the increased power bills resulting from keeping analog on the grid.:)

We could take the millions of dollars of bail-out bonus dollars that executives gave themselves and their cronies to pay a lot of power bills.:P

More seriously, this isn't an easy problem to work out. No solution I've seen is going to make everyone happy, and depending on which constituency one gores, they can be very loud. The people on these forums are very loud, even though minimally gored. The station owners are loud. The general public often gets lost in the shuffle. This whole mess is yet another case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.
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#66 OFFLINE   n3ntj

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 01:58 PM

A local station (WGAL) did a story yesterday about state prisoners having TVs in their cells that are antenna only and only something like 10% have bought converter boxes. They gave this as another reason to delay the analog shutdown until June. My question is, why are earth do we care if prisoners can watch TV after the 17th?

Just stick with the original date (Feb 17th). Why change the rules at this late time (just weeks before the shutdown that everyone know about years ago)? If you think there will be people 'confused' on the 18th if the analog channels do shut down (claiming they never knew of DTV), think of the confusion if they don't shutdown on the 17th after they've been telling us for years it was going to shutdown on the 17th.

Not having a gov't coupon doesn't mean you can't get a converter box. It just means you can't get something for nothing from the gov't. If you waited this long to get a converter box and sign up for a free coupon, and can't get a coupon, go out and just buy the $60 converted box yourself.

I just called and emailed my congressman to ask that any attempt to delay the conversion again be voted AGAINST.

IF a bill does get introduced in the House again, let's hope someone sticks some other pork in the bill making it different b/w the two Houses and the bills have to go back and forth...maybe all of these delays will take us past the Feb 17th date and the issue will be moot.

Edited by n3ntj, 30 January 2009 - 02:10 PM.

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#67 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 02:07 PM

I believe I understand why the first bill required suspension of the House Rules (so that bill is completely dead, by the way). House Rules are "pay as you go" and one of the modifications to create the new bill was:

(d) Condition of Modifications- The amendments made by this section shall not take effect until the enactment of additional budget authority after the date of enactment of this Act to carry out the analog-to-digital converter box program under section 3005 of the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005.

which allows normal bill processing in the House.

Technically, the senate is not permitted to spend money. Spending bills must come from the house. Because of that rule I agree that suspension of the rules was more than just suspending the committee process. I kinda wish they would STATE which rules were suspended. :)

#68 OFFLINE   loudo

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 02:23 PM

It was recommended by the transition group (whoever they are) to delay because:
1. They are over a million coupons short of current need.
2. The call center (FCC) that was set up to allow people to order the coupons via telephone was grossly underpowered, and left many with no "simple" way to get coupons.

I heard an interesting story on TV this noon. They said that there was originally enough coupons, but many of the coupons that were given out and never used. Looks like many people applied for them that never had any intention to use them, or bought new TVs and never used the coupons. They said if you needed a coupon check with friends and neighbors to see if any of them had gotten them and not used them.

If the call center was messed people could have used the Internet to order them also. https://www.dtv2009.gov/

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#69 OFFLINE   hasan

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 02:35 PM

I heard an interesting story on TV this noon. They said that there was originally enough coupons, but many of the coupons that were given out and never used. Looks like many people applied for them that never had any intention to use them, or bought new TVs and never used the coupons. They said if you needed a coupon check with friends and neighbors to see if any of them had gotten them and not used them.

If the call center was messed people could have used the Internet to order them also. https://www.dtv2009.gov/


The very people who wanted to use the phone order system are exactly the people who are not internet savvy, or may not even have internet connections available to them. Many local people have complained they could barely understand the "simple" phone order system.

Certainly many people ordered coupons and did not use them. Many others ordered them, received them, but there were no local stores that had the converters in stock before the coupons expired. Stock was very limited in this area for a six week period, and that was followed by no stock for three more weeks. The fact is, there have been problems, not all of which are attributable to the consumer.

This whole process has been difficult for a large segment of the viewing public. There wasn't much that could be done to make it easier, other than not running out of coupons and having call centers that could process the volume of calls.

There is no doubt that many people have no one to blame but themselves. It is equally certain that others were without fault. Therein lies the rub. Cavalierly dismissing their situation does us no credit.

No matter what side of the debate one finds oneself on, we are still left with only three options:

1. Let them eat cake
2. Half-baked analog turn off
3. Full push back.

The only way this is going to happen as quickly and "clearly" as it can is to proceed with the 17 Feb shut down of analog. I don't envy those left out in the dark through no fault of their own.
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#70 OFFLINE   hasan

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 02:45 PM

From the Director of Engineering and Technology at Iowa Public Television (today):

"IPTV will continue to operate analog services until the mandated analog shutoff date whether that is February 17, 2009 or the proposed June 12, 2009. There is indeed an added cost to maintaining two operations and our costs are amplified due to the fact that we have 9 full powered facilities statewide that are each operating two transmitters. Based on my experience doing DTV information sessions statewide (and out of state, I was just in Albert Lea on Tuesday) there are a great many people that rely on over the air television reception that are not ready. We think IPTV is better serving the viewer and communities that rely on us by continuing to operate analog for as long as possible to provide the most opportunity for people to get ready and deal with any reception issues. We recognize that even if we delay until June, we will still deal with the procrastinators but we would rather have them scrambling on their roofs checking antennas and cables in June rather than February."

<posted on AVS forum HDTV local Des Moines, IA>

Notice, this person is not interested in finding fault with the consumers, rather he is merely acknowledging that "a great many people ...are not ready", and is committed to serving them.

While I would prefer to go ahead with things, he makes a good point about antenna work (at least in Iowa). I find this abundance of concern for those left out (their fault or not), refreshing and admire this director for his commitment to the viewing public.
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#71 OFFLINE   jpl

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 03:05 PM

Technically, the senate is not permitted to spend money. Spending bills must come from the house. Because of that rule I agree that suspension of the rules was more than just suspending the committee process. I kinda wish they would STATE which rules were suspended. :)


Excellent point - and you beat me to it. All funding bills HAVE to originate in the House (the stimulus package is case in point).

#72 OFFLINE   Kansas Zephyr

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 03:10 PM

Notice, this person is not interested in finding fault with the consumers, rather he is merely acknowledging that "a great many people ...are not ready", and is committed to serving them.

While I would prefer to go ahead with things, he makes a good point about antenna work (at least in Iowa). I find this abundance of concern for those left out (their fault or not), refreshing and admire this director for his commitment to the viewing public.

He can apparently afford to be admirable. I guess that the State of Iowa does a superior job funding its Public TV stations. That is excellent, and praiseworthy.

However, commercial broadcasters don't have government funding, and corporate/public donations. They must deal with budgetary realities.

With declining local TV revenues, due to competition from cable, satellite, and Internet...even before the economic woes began, and the cost of the DTV transition, we are talking about cutting even more jobs to delay the end of analog.

That's why the overwhelming majority of stations have stated publicly that they are planning to go digital only on 2/18 regardless of a cut-off date extension.
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#73 OFFLINE   jpl

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 03:14 PM

The very people who wanted to use the phone order system are exactly the people who are not internet savvy, or may not even have internet connections available to them. Many local people have complained they could barely understand the "simple" phone order system.

Certainly many people ordered coupons and did not use them. Many others ordered them, received them, but there were no local stores that had the converters in stock before the coupons expired. Stock was very limited in this area for a six week period, and that was followed by no stock for three more weeks. The fact is, there have been problems, not all of which are attributable to the consumer.

This whole process has been difficult for a large segment of the viewing public. There wasn't much that could be done to make it easier, other than not running out of coupons and having call centers that could process the volume of calls.

There is no doubt that many people have no one to blame but themselves. It is equally certain that others were without fault. Therein lies the rub. Cavalierly dismissing their situation does us no credit.

No matter what side of the debate one finds oneself on, we are still left with only three options:

1. Let them eat cake
2. Half-baked analog turn off
3. Full push back.

The only way this is going to happen as quickly and "clearly" as it can is to proceed with the 17 Feb shut down of analog. I don't envy those left out in the dark through no fault of their own.


I'm not about to defend how the coupon program was administered, but this is a non-starter, to me. The same people that have no issue going out and buying a TV... paying for the electricity to watch said TV... are out in the dark with this? Even if it's true that they couldn't get through via the phone number, why in the world is that an issue? I understand there are people who are on fixed incomes... I get that.... but the notion that this can't happen because government didn't plan for every eventuality... every possible issue... is, to be honest, pretty flabbergasting. The coupon program was never meant to cover every case... it was never even meant just to go to the poor - or it would have required means-testing. No, it wasn't perfect - far from it - but the notion that people are just doomed if they can't get a coupon, when they can spend $40 to get a converter box. I'm sorry, but I really don't think $40 is all that much of a burden if you want to watch TV. For crying out loud, is it really that much to ask that people take a little responsibility for themselves on this?

I don't know the first thing about car repair, but if my car has a problem I don't just sit around bemoaning that the government didn't do enough to cover whatever problem I had - I go to someone who knows how, and I get it fixed. Sometimes it's more than I want/can afford to pay for the repair, but the incentive is great enough for me to get the car fixed.

I was ok with the coupon program to begin with because this change is government-mandated. I never applied for any coupons myself, even though I had a spare TV that could have used one, because I have no issue going out and spending $40 to keep the TV going should I desire it.

#74 OFFLINE   hasan

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 03:15 PM

He can apparently afford to be admirable. I guess that the State of Iowa does a superior job funding its Public TV stations. That is excellent, and praiseworthy.

However, commercial broadcasters don't have government funding, and corporate/public donations. They must deal with budgetary realities.

With declining local TV revenues, due to competition from cable, satellite, and Internet...even before the economic woes began, and the cost of the DTV transition, we are talking about cutting even more jobs to delay the end of analog.

That's why the overwhelming majority of stations have stated publicly that they are planning to go digital only on 2/18 regardless of a cut-off date extension.


...and I applaud them for doing it. Don't misread my respect for IPTV as pro-pushback. I think any commercial station that runs analog one minute more than absolutely necessary is nuts. It is a waste of money. IPTV can, as you noted, raise money from its subscribers, many of whom would approve the concerns the director listed, and willingly have some portion of their donations used to subsidize analog for a short period of time.
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#75 OFFLINE   Upstream

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 03:29 PM

I was against the extension. But it seems that the extension also includes a provision to allow reissuing of expired coupons. That's a free $40 for me. So now I'm in favor of the extension (unless there is no money for the reissuing of coupons, so I can't get my free $40, in which case I'm still against the extension).

:)




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