February 17, 2009

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While I'm Thinking About It

In case you haven't noticed . . .

. . . despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not more!) spent on public service announcements, Congress and President Obama got cold feet about the whole wacky digital broadcasting changeover, and pushed it back four months. Mark your calendars, folks: June 12, 2009 is the new deadline for pushing the deadline back even further.

Do I sound cynical, here? Well, maybe I am, just a little. Here's an article about the pushback and the reasons for the delay.

Some people haven't got their coupons yet? Frankly, I'm more interested in the number of people who sent away for coupons--based on the scary articles and announcements--who didn't actually need them. People with cable or satellite service, or who watch free broadcast TV on a set they purchased within the last couple of years. We're dealing with the general public here, and as bright and intelligent as a singular "person" is, get them together as "people" and watch IQ scores plummet.

Why, yes, I do like Men in Black. Why do you ask?

And while we're still on the subject of the coupons . . . a case can be made that the government shouldn't even be offering these coupons, just as they haven't historically subsidized other improvements in electronic infotainment. The argument falls apart, however, in that the development of color broadcasts was the result of the free market at work. The reason the NBC/RCA technology won out over CBS's arguably superior method was one of compatibility--all those old black-and-white sets continued to work. FM radio didn't mean the AM stations went away. But digital TV broadcasts are a federal mandate, and as a result, sure, they should share some of the burden. Then the law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head and companies get th charge more for the converter boxes than they otherwise might, because, hey!, forty bucks of the Suggested Retail Price don't even count.

Once the last of the coupons expire, I expect prices will drop.

All that said, here's the real reason why the date was pushed back: Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress don't want to take the blame when someone tunes in to the latest episode of Dollhouse and finds static instead. That is the exact same reason the Republican-controlled Congress in 2005 so generously set the date for after the end of the Bush Administration. This whole thing is one of those times I have to shake my head and say "A pox on both your houses."



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