What a difference a few days makes. At the beginning of this week, it was full speed ahead for the February 17 termination of analog television. Then NTIA announced that it was out of money to pay for DTV coupons to assist the public in buying converter boxes so that analog TV sets will continue to work after the transition. This action, in turn, caused Consumers Union to ask Congress for a delay in the transition, resulting in Congressman Markey’s office suggesting that the DTV transition might need to be delayed (as we wrote yesterday). Today, the other shoe dropped as the Obama transition team formally wrote to Congress asking for a delay of the termination of analog television. That letter leaves everyone asking – will Congress respond? If so, what are the ramifications?
The NAB responded with a press release talking about how broadcasters are still prepared to meet the deadline, and how the deadline has focused all parties (TV stations, electronics manufacturers, cable and satellite companies) on doing what they need to do in order to be ready for the transition. But the Obama team’s call for the postponement does not seem to be focused on the readiness of program providers to accomplish the switch, but instead on the readiness of viewers to deal with the new digital environment, especially given the lack of coupons for last minute shoppers still waiting to buy their converter boxes. As we’ve written before, many in Washington are worried about the political ramifications of the transition – especially if millions of people wake up on February 18 and can’t watch the Today Show or Good Morning America. And while that is a legitimate concern, one wonders if it will ever be possible to prepare everyone for the transition deadline. Sure, if the deadline is postpone 4 or 5 months, there will be a marginal increase in people who are ready, but there will still be stragglers. Catching up to them all may never happen until they are hit with the reality of their analog sets not working on the day after the transition, whenever that day may be. If so, shouldn’t someone at least consider the costs that a delay will impose on broadcasters? Continue Reading Obama Transition Team Requests Delay of DTV Transition Deadline