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Digital Killed the Radio Star
June 12, 2009 7:32 AM   Subscribe

"This Friday, June 12, TV stations nationwide will cease broadcasting analog signals and switch to digital-only broadcasts. That’s fine with me. I have a digital television, and I have cable anyway, so it won’t affect me. At least that’s what I thought. Only recently did I realize that one of my favorite ways to enjoy television will go away. Starting Friday, I can no longer get TV on the radio."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing (96 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
USA Nationwide, had me going there for a second.

Is it a bad sign the DTV site took several minutes to load?
posted by Mitheral at 7:37 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the second link: But then I saw the Sony Tap Tunes Shower Radio that received AM/FM and TV Audio. A radio that gets TV signals? I had to have it.

Why did no-one tell me these existed? Why have I been forced to shower in cruel silence all my life?. WHY GOD WHY?
posted by permafrost at 7:37 AM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


The end of an era. The irony though is that I've been up on the roof adjusting a big TV antenna for the first time in over a decade, because hey, free HDTV for the taking and no way am I tangling up my DirecTV package with a bigger bill and a contract.
posted by crapmatic at 7:38 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


How about buying a portable TV, and just not looking at it?
posted by Phanx at 7:38 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is it a bad sign the DTV site took several minutes to load?

Probably to be expected of a government site, especially today. Here's a couple alternates:

DTV Answers.

FAQ: What the digital-TV switch actually means.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:40 AM on June 12, 2009


Thank god. Now all I have left to worry about are the creepy radio signals my phone line and speakers still pick up from time to time.
posted by strixus at 7:41 AM on June 12, 2009


That's ok. I never really got TV on the Radio anyway.
posted by nevercalm at 7:42 AM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I had to just look this up for my Mom... Nationwide, the switch is August 30, 2011.
posted by sporb at 7:43 AM on June 12, 2009


Why have I been forced to shower in cruel silence all my life?

How can you concentrate on your book with the radio blaring?
posted by DU at 7:44 AM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Some estimates say 16.5 million TVs will go dark today, primarily in minority communities.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:46 AM on June 12, 2009


You should get cable. Then you can have radio on the TV! It's a lot like having a phone in your camera!
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:46 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I had to just look this up for my Mom... Nationwide, the switch is August 30, 2011.

That's odd, because the FCC is saying the switch is today.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:47 AM on June 12, 2009


Under-35 singles, and Hispanic and African-American households. Experts say these viewers have been hardest to reach with information about how to prepare for the switch, tend to have less money to spend on upgrades, and will be slower to adapt once the curtain drops on their old TV sets.

What do they do with their spare time? Engage positively with their community, natch!
posted by DU at 7:53 AM on June 12, 2009


I think sporb must be talking about Canada.
posted by Phanx at 7:53 AM on June 12, 2009


I think sporb must be talking about Canada.

Ah, alright then.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:54 AM on June 12, 2009


It might be wrong but I can hardly wait for the videos of surprised folk asking what happened to their tee-bees and did Bin Laden smash it up some-a-where's.
posted by rahnefan at 7:54 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think sporb must be talking about Canada.
Ya, we get another 2 years.
posted by chococat at 7:55 AM on June 12, 2009


I predict riots in the street when people suddenly don't have their television fix. People will wander aimlessly in the park pointing their remote controls at squirrels and wondering why they don't respond. Millions of comedians will go out of work because their humor was analog-based and doesn't translate well to digital.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:57 AM on June 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


Metafilter: forced to shower in cruel silence.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:01 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Under-35 singles, and Hispanic and African-American households. Experts say these viewers have been hardest to reach with information about how to prepare for the switch, tend to have less money to spend on upgrades, and will be slower to adapt once the curtain drops on their old TV sets.

Hard to reach? Less money to spend on what is essentially a free receiver? I don't know where this is coming from, but I received several notifications in my mailbox, saw dozens of PSAs, and couldn't walk into a Circuit City or Best Buy without walking past a stack of DTV receiver boxes. (in fact at the closing of CC the only thing left was a stack of them selling for $9.99)
posted by Gungho at 8:01 AM on June 12, 2009


Millions of comedians will go out of work because their humor was analog-based and doesn't translate well to digital.

analog is like THIS but digital is like THIS
posted by DU at 8:03 AM on June 12, 2009 [65 favorites]


Pushed back forever, put the damn dog down already. I was incredulous yesterday when a contractor in my house remarked "Hm! Guess I have to go get an adapter, they said on the news this morning my TV wouldn't pick up anything tomorrow." Two years! How many times did you have to be told that it was time to adapt? Gah!
posted by cavalier at 8:04 AM on June 12, 2009


WTF WHERE DID MATLOCK GO?!
posted by uncleozzy at 8:05 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


A radio that gets TV signals? I had to have it.

All radio gets some TV signals. The entire FM band is somewhere between 6 and 7 on UHF. It used to be that, if you cranked your dial way to the left, you could hear whatever was Channel 6 on your local TV.
posted by jonp72 at 8:05 AM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I got grounded from television for a whole term when I was in grade school. The local NBC affiiliate (kind of local: Johnstown, PA and I lived outside of Berlin) broadcast its audio, and that's how I managed to stay up-to-date on Buck Rogers that season.

It was great: I knew enough to act knowledgeable on the playground and I didn't have to suffer the crushing humiliation of admitting that I was powerless to have t.v. taken away from me. I just retired to my room to "do homework," which got me a diluted t.v. fix and allowed my parents to think they'd finally gotten through to me, which was surely gratifying to them. My grades didn't improve that term. The next term they resorted to taking away all my books, too.

I rewatched Buck Rogers a few years ago. Finally having the intended video to go along with what I'd imagined from listening to the radio 20 years ago was very strange. The bridge of the ship they were running around in that season looked nothing like I'd imagined, probably because my notion of how a bridge should look was limited to Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica.
posted by mph at 8:07 AM on June 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


BTW - I do think this is going to be a complete disaster. From what I've read a lot of the digital convertor boxes don't work well. You can take away Americans' liberties, but don't touch their television.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:16 AM on June 12, 2009


does this mean i have to not get a new adapter for the tv i don't have?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:19 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I watched my TV screen go blank at midnight. I really don't think I'm going to miss it. But if anybody asks, it's an act of cultural disobedience.
posted by Restless Day at 8:21 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


We got our adapter in time for the last deadline, and it's fine, except that, as it apparently is for a lot of digital antenna users in our area, the ABC signal is crap; we could get it fuzzily on analog, but not at all on digital. And we bought a schmancy antenna (the kind you use on an RV) too. No dice.

But the cheapest we can get cable is another 50.00 a month, and ABC and cable shows aren't worth it to us right now. And hey, we are are picking up at least three new bizarro religious channels, a new Spanish channel, plus NBC-3, which appears to be every recent swimming and skiing competition worldwide.

We'd get rid of TV altogether, but only PBS chlidren's shows can soothe a sick or bored or just-awake toddler.
posted by emjaybee at 8:26 AM on June 12, 2009


I really don't give a crap about picking up TV audio on the radio, myself. What ticks me off is that after the digital switch, cable companies can still get away with charging more for the digital cable box, and for HD. Which is sickening because I can just unplug the cable and get digital + HD for free on my flatscreen with the built-in HD tuner. So why am I paying Comcast money for a poorer signal? If the station is broadcasting in HD, the damn cable company shouldn't be allowed to charge me extra to see it in HD.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:28 AM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


I wish I understood more about why this transition is taking place. I wish I could get past the idea that its a federally mandated way to make people buy televisions.
posted by anastasiav at 8:37 AM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Two years! How many times did you have to be told that it was time to adapt? Gah!

Maybe, deep down some people don't want to upgrade. Maybe they want to let the whole warped brain sucking marketing machination of TV die, once and for all.

I've had a letter from the Dept. of Commerce with 80 bucks worth of TV converter box credit sitting on my desk since January or February and just now, I finally opened it, to discover that the coupons expired two months ago on April 3rd. Duh.

Down with TV anyway. Who needs TV when you've got Netflix? I watch my TV programs on DVD with no commercials. So don't do it. Don't upgrade. Sooner or later pirate analog TV stations are going to come along that will kick digital TV's ass and until that happens I'm done with TV.

I'm going to get into ham radio. That shit sounds dope.
posted by Skygazer at 8:37 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Serious question about US and Canada: What will happen to the TV part of the "Emergency Broadcast System?"
posted by autodidact at 8:42 AM on June 12, 2009


Anastasiav, being a cynic, I think these are mainly excuses but ...

1) Supposedly, by using digital transmission, you can push four channels in the bandwidth previously occupied by a single analog channel.

2) Channels 60, 61, 68, and 69 in the 700 MHz band will be reallocated for emergency communications traffic.

I think the fact that the other channels will be sold off also plays a part.
posted by adipocere at 8:44 AM on June 12, 2009


does this mean i have to not get a new adapter for the tv i don't have?

*slow clap* Bravo, pyramid termite. You win the hipster award today.

Would anyone else like to comment in a discussion about TV about how they don't have a TV? I'm going to go over to AutoBlog and slag off all the classic cars I don't own. brb...
posted by indiebass at 8:44 AM on June 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


emjaybee: "We got our adapter in time for the last deadline, and it's fine, except that, as it apparently is for a lot of digital antenna users in our area, the ABC signal is crap; we could get it fuzzily on analog, but not at all on digital. And we bought a schmancy antenna (the kind you use on an RV) too. No dice.

But the cheapest we can get cable is another 50.00 a month, and ABC and cable shows aren't worth it to us right now. And hey, we are are picking up at least three new bizarro religious channels, a new Spanish channel, plus NBC-3, which appears to be every recent swimming and skiing competition worldwide.
"

And this is the heart of why this migration is sheer unmitigated landgrabby bullshit: it sunsets free TV, period. Digital signals over-the-air are inherently more fragile than analg broadcasts, and in fact, the original publically stated reasons for the bill's passage were to free up more frequencies for the various consumer-oriented radion tech we use so much these days (phones, wifi, etc).

The real reason this change is occurring is to force the remaining non-cable folks onto cable or satellite and at the same time to provide instant obsolesence for fifty years of still-operable televisions. It is the height of irresponsiblity, poorly covered in the remnants of the press, and effectively removes yet another media outlet from the lives of the poor.

Fuck the jacktards that came up with this plan.
posted by mwhybark at 8:47 AM on June 12, 2009 [19 favorites]


I wish I understood more about why this transition is taking place.

Analog transmissions waste a fuckload of bandwidth. The feds took that bandwidth and sold it, so they got a pile of money that didn't come from your taxes, and different companies are doing/gonna do different things with those wavelengths.

What will happen to the TV part of the "Emergency Broadcast System?"

Why would anything happen?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:52 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I moved a few more miles away from Mt. Wilson and now my digital reception is super spotty. No fun watching the Lakers in overtime when the signal continually blanks out. You don't even want to know what it was like watching the season finale of Lost.

I used to be such a proponent of free-over-the-air HD digital television, when it worked for me consistently. I'm usually fine with next-day viewing of shows on the internet, but I'm fairly sure that the rest of America isn't.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:04 AM on June 12, 2009


I'm off to watch a 'bit' of TV -- har, har!
posted by mazola at 9:05 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


That dang Geek Squad fellah sold me a box with a hole cut out in the middle. Never much gave it a thought. He said, "Just keep lighting the candle and you'll get all the big city shows
in crystal calarity". The other fellah had a sock on his hand. He the one that done give me the news report. Well, I was took in and gave him my dollars. Now I get it home and I can't get me no signal. Dagnabbit, I hates it when these big city fellah's puts one over on me. All on account of me not knowin' nuttin about big city magic.
posted by doctorschlock at 9:06 AM on June 12, 2009


Oh man, I used to love listening to the daily Star Trek: DOS episodes on the TV channel on the radio when I was in the car with my dad. Good stuff.
posted by Never teh Bride at 9:12 AM on June 12, 2009


daily Star Trek: DOS episodes

There's a great Microsoft joke there just waiting to happen.
posted by Servo5678 at 9:20 AM on June 12, 2009


It used to be that, if you cranked your dial way to the left, you could hear whatever was Channel 6 on your local TV.

I grew up in a small Midwestern town that was, as far as I can recall, entirely white. My Fundamentalist church was all-white, and my friends were all white because I was homeschooled and wasn't allowed friends from outside of church. There was little overt racism, but non-Caucasian people were presented as outsiders with whom I could have little in common. Homosexuals, on the other hand, were constantly vilified as irredeemable deviants who gleefully engaged in all manner of perversion until their lives were prematurely ended by horrible diseases. I had no outside mentors, no one to suggest that there might be another way of looking at things.

When I was 11 or 12, my parents took away my television after they caught me watching something not on the Focus On The Family-approved list. I discovered shortly thereafter that I could pick up audio from the local CBS station on my portable FM radio. Every night after going to bed, I would listen to TV on the radio for an hour or two before going to sleep.

Over the course of hundreds of nights in bed with the speaker next to my ear and the volume just high enough to be audible, I discovered a whole world of people who were not like me. Be it a drama or a sitcom or a late-night talk show, the people who made me laugh, whose frustrations I shared, and whose lives in many cases I envied, were white and black and Jewish and Latino and Asian and gay and straight.

Sometimes I could tell right away from the context or from someone's accent. Other times, bereft of visual cues, I came to deeply identify with a character before learning his/her race or sexual orientation. Everyone seems pretty much like you when all you know of them is their voices. And their hopes, their fears, their triumphs, their losses.

Today I have friends of many races and sexual orientations, and I'm married to someone of a different race. Some of my peers from the church I grew up in are not as fortunate. I shudder to think of the person I might be if not for TV on the radio.

I hadn't considered this impact of the DTV transition before now, but I am saddened by it. This post has prompted my first experience of genuine nostalgia for a technology that is (soon to be) gone.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 9:25 AM on June 12, 2009 [188 favorites]


I'm just happy I don't have to see any more of those DTV transition PSAs.
posted by SirOmega at 9:29 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


All radio gets some TV signals. The entire FM band is somewhere between 6 and 7 on UHF. It used to be that, if you cranked your dial way to the left, you could hear whatever was Channel 6 on your local TV.

Yep, used to get WPVI in Philadelphia around 86-87 on the FM band, back in the day. Picture was as sharp as a Kentucky nail. Yep.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:34 AM on June 12, 2009


I wish I understood more about why this transition is taking place. I wish I could get past the idea that its a federally mandated way to make people buy televisions.

The answer is always money. Specifically, the spectrum is a resource that the government controls. By shifting the analog signals into a much smaller slot (by using digital technology) they free up a large amount of space to be sold off for other purposes in exchange for cash.
posted by odinsdream at 9:39 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Huh, that's today? I should remember to be extra nice to anyone who works for the cable company, a station, or electronics store. They're going to have sooooo much shit to deal with today.
posted by The Whelk at 9:40 AM on June 12, 2009


Also, it would be ironic if this lack of television pushed people into being more involved in government action.
posted by odinsdream at 9:40 AM on June 12, 2009


Those who are having reception problems, two suggestions:

(1) Go to AntennaWeb, click the "choose an antenna" button, and give it the info it needs to find your location. It will give you a map of the tower positions relative to your location to help your positioning and make antenna recommendations based on each channel's signal type.

(2) If that doesn't work, contact the station you have a problem with, let them know that you're not getting them anymore. They want you to watch their advertising, so they'll be willing to help you in any way they can. If they have enough complaints, then they may even upgrade their antenna to increase the signal coverage in your area. At least two stations in my area did this in preparation for the transition. One even got me in touch with their chief engineer over e-mail to help with my reception troubles. Wham blammo, I got PBS over the air, which was impossible for me over analog.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:41 AM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think the fact that the other channels will be sold off also plays a part.

Because businesses are clamoring and climbing over each other to get into the broadcast business.

Seriously -- to whom? I have a suspicion that broadcast TV is going to be a worse wasteland than FM radio in the next 10 years.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:42 AM on June 12, 2009


A lot of plans are to use the freed up bandwidth for what they're calling "WiFi on steroids." Google for one has been a big supporter of this.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:44 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


What will happen to the TV part of the "Emergency Broadcast System?"

it's merged with a new reality program called "the world today"
posted by pyramid termite at 9:44 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I rewatched Buck Rogers a few years ago. Finally having the intended video to go along with what I'd imagined.

My childhood imagination involved a lot of Erin Gray.
posted by rokusan at 9:48 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


jabberjaw, I live in the shadow of Mt. Wilson, which means I get no digital broadcast TV at all and crappy radio reception. So it could be worse.

My grandmother lives in a rural area a good 60 miles from the nearest transmitter. I set up her digital converter box just before the last (postponed) switchover. As long as she can still watch Jeopardy (which she can, if the rooftop antenna is oriented 166°), she's happy.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:56 AM on June 12, 2009


I think Dear Science is a great record!
posted by ludwig_van at 9:56 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


The irony though is that I've been up on the roof adjusting a big TV antenna for the first time in over a decade...

Yeah, I was all set to do this, but I though "hey, let's smack an old UHF cheapier on my high-falutin' HDTV and see what happens", and most of the channels come in just fine. The cheapie is now dangling off the back of the TV in all its low-tech glory.

What I find interesting, though, is how this levels the playing field a bit for the typically low-end UHF channels, who previously were on UHF and so less likely able to be picked up clearly compared to the VHF bigwigs. I'm in Los Angeles, and while walking through the digital channels I could receive, noticed that lots of the big guys were broadcasting in 720p, with only a couple in 1080i -- but then one of the rinky-dink UHF guys was also broadcasting in 1080i, with crystal clarity...a really old black and white movie from a really badly-scanned print.
posted by davejay at 10:02 AM on June 12, 2009


the ABC signal is crap; we could get it fuzzily on analog, but not at all on digital

I had to recapture all the digital signals this morning on our box when the switch occurred. It automatically re-picked up all the channels except our ABC affiliate.

Lost doesn't start again for...what, fifteen years? So I suppose I've got some time.
posted by Lucinda at 10:04 AM on June 12, 2009


Wait a minute... my TV set doesn't work
(IT'S BROKEN!)
What are we gonna do tonight? This isn't fair!
*
posted by porn in the woods at 10:09 AM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


The channels being sold off are used as TV now, but that doesn't mean anything. It's just broadcast spectrum. I know part of it is going to mobile phone networks, for example.

This isn't just changing how TV is broadcast or on what part of the spectrum the transmision lies, it's also about taking that now-free part of the spectrum and doing different things with it. I wouldn't call the TV part the tip of the iceberg, but it is the most noticeable part.
posted by adipocere at 10:41 AM on June 12, 2009


Seriously -- to whom?

Traditional broadcasters sure aren't buying. Telecommunication companies are. So is Google for some reason. Some are using the spectrum to broadcast digitally to cell phones for some reason. I don't forsee that taking off.
posted by zsazsa at 10:46 AM on June 12, 2009


So that's where they got their name!
posted by Afroblanco at 10:52 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Would anyone else like to comment in a discussion about TV about how they don't have a TV?

I haven't really watched TV in about 8 years. I end up watching stuff on DVD, and now, Netflix streaming.

Tying more relevantly into the topic- I think a lot more people are doing this now, and basically the demand for TV has taken a big hit between videogames and alternate media options- asking people to buy new tvs or even get converters is going to end up with a loss of viewers.

Granted, TV seems like it's sorta on it's downturn anyway, but this just speeds that process.
posted by yeloson at 10:55 AM on June 12, 2009


The conversion has inspired a satirical web series called The Conversion.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:11 AM on June 12, 2009


anastasiav: "I wish I understood more about why this transition is taking place. I wish I could get past the idea that its a federally mandated way to make people buy televisions."

There are some other reasons. For example, a digital signal doesn't need as wide a band of frequencies, so that frees up more of the radiowave spectrum for other companies/devices to use, which could be used for technologies such as wireless internet. There was also a proposed feature called the "broadcast flag," which would encrypt the video signals with DRM and restrict devices from recording certain shows or skipping commercials, which the MPAA and other IP groups wanted to prevent home recording. However, that was shot down by congress.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:21 AM on June 12, 2009


.
posted by not_on_display at 11:21 AM on June 12, 2009


I wish I understood more about why this transition is taking place.

Patent Royalties. At 20 - 50 bucks a tuner, it adds up.
posted by mikelieman at 11:30 AM on June 12, 2009


I wish I could get past the idea that its a federally mandated way to make people buy televisions.

If you take a look at the digital broadcasters in your area, you will see that, instead of broadcasting the single, old analog channel, they now pump-out 2 or 3 extra channels in addition to the normal network programming. You will also notice that these new channels are almost exclusively paked with infomercials.

This is your beautiful new digital future. Just more advertising.
Okay...and maybe a "Super Mega Storm-Team Doppler Radar 9000" channel. With ads.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:02 PM on June 12, 2009


Poop. Getting my local VH6 Channel 6 bleeding over into my FM dial was something I never really appreciated but now will miss.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:27 PM on June 12, 2009


Kinda makes me want to go to this Machine Project event tonight.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:31 PM on June 12, 2009


Seems like a dumb idea to do this on a Friday.
posted by Tenuki at 12:36 PM on June 12, 2009


I just discovered the same thing on my radio. THE ABC and CBS affiliates are still OK so far, but NBC and PBS are gone.
posted by Cranberry at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2009


Bravo, pyramid termite. You win the hipster award today.

that would be like marilyn monroe winning a quasimodo look alike contest
posted by pyramid termite at 12:50 PM on June 12, 2009


I'll tell ya pyramid, in my book you're the full modo.
posted by Floydd at 1:08 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


It used to be that, if you cranked your dial way to the left, you could hear whatever was Channel 6 on your local TV.

Used to? I've gotten the local NBC affiliate at channel 6 over my car radio rather recently. If they haven't shut down yet, I might take a drive tonight and listen to Conan's last analog monologue.

The NBC-3 (or in L.A., channel 4.4) service is interesting - it's called Universal Sports and it carries any sports event that ESPN and FoxSports don't bother with. But considering how many cable networks are owned by the same parent company as broadcast networks, the biggest shame of the digital changeover is the fact that nothing on cable/satellite is migrating to the .2-.8 subchannels. Imagine if the local NBC affiliate also offered MSNBC, Bravo and SciFi/SyFy. Or the ABC added the Disney Channel and ESPN. CBS is officially a separate corp from Viacom now (with mostly the same owners), but they COULD put Colbert and Spongebob on their extra channels if the wanted. But nobody wants to. Big lost opportunity for the viewer.

As for radio on the TV, I once worked with the guy who came up with the Cable Radio Network, originally created to provide a 'soundtrack' to the local cable companies' scrolling program guide channel. Of course, the Interactive Program Guide made that very very obsolete, but he's been hustling every other kind of audio-only transmission system and currently provides satellite uplinks to every talkradio nutjob who doesn't have Rush Limbaugh's facilities. So the next time a Michael Savage fan shoots up a synagogue, my old friend-who-I-haven't-spoken-to-for-years Mike Horn will be at least partly to blame.
posted by wendell at 1:26 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


oh man. the loss of tv over the radio hadn't occurred to me. it's something i associate with watching baseball games live and listening to the color commentary on the radio, back before sports radio was so omnipresent (and blackout markets so common)
posted by rmd1023 at 1:36 PM on June 12, 2009


You will also notice that these new channels are almost exclusively paked with infomercials.

I get two weather channels, a PBS channel that only shows cooking/home improvement channels, and Universal sports channel. I have no complaints. Oh, except CBS uses two of their sub-channels to show the same thing as the main channel, but in SD and sub-SD resolutions.
posted by smackfu at 1:45 PM on June 12, 2009


I associate TV over radio primarily with road trips through rural areas in the US where you have to play Radio Scan Roulette and usually end up with the local fundamentalist station or the TV station on the low end of the FM band. For some reason soap operas are infinitely more compelling when they're audio-only. I will miss that.
posted by Spatch at 2:20 PM on June 12, 2009


So does the Must Carry clause apply to these new and numerous DTV channels? Will Cable and Satellite have to carry ALL the channels broadcast locally?
posted by Gungho at 2:45 PM on June 12, 2009


My husband is home today, reports that many channels are going out of analog by playing old "signal off" bits from the 70s-80s---National Anthem plus jets flying over the Washington Monument, you know. And some did some retrospective bits, of their first broadcasts. Which is kinda cool.
posted by emjaybee at 2:51 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I found it really interesting when I learned the snow was due in part to leftovers from the Big Bang.

[...The photons that help wash out the Today Show and Sesame Street, though, are thousands of times older. They are by far the oldest radiation in the universe--the electromagnetic echo of the Big Bang itself.]
posted by sweetmarie at 4:16 PM on June 12, 2009


I'm married to someone of a different race. Some of my peers from the church I grew up in are not as fortunate.

Crackers in bed?
posted by xorry at 4:19 PM on June 12, 2009


"The real reason this change is occurring is to force the remaining non-cable folks onto cable or satellite and at the same time to provide instant obsolesence for fifty years of still-operable televisions."

Neither one seems likely as the primary reason. You don't need to get a new TV, just a cheap converter box. And cable/satellite seems like a weak reason, given that the digital TV shift is happening in lots of countries, not just the US, and in some (like here in Japan), there isn't any cable to speak of, and a converter box is way cheaper than satellite. So that can't really be a primary factor in the switchover.

I'm going to go out on a crazy, crazy, CRAZY limb and say the reason for the switchover is in fact, exactly what the government says, which, as folks above have pointed out, is reselling of the now-unused part of the broadcast spectrum to other folks, for other uses (WiFi, etc.), thereby giving the government an income boost without raising taxes. As much as Occam's Razor says "Of several acceptable explanations for a phenomenon, the conspiracy theory angle is preferable", I think this may be the exception that proves the rule.
posted by Bugbread at 6:54 PM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Grrr. I've paid a total of $350 to be 'digital-ready' and my Mom and I get absolutely nothing now. Zero channels. Weird how we used to be able to get about ten channels with more than passable reception just from plugging the tvs in the wall.. and now after all this money is wasted getting ourselves 'up to code,' we get absolutely nothing. I guess I'll keep waiting for this mind-blowing improvement in picture and sound.
posted by Mael Oui at 7:41 PM on June 12, 2009


the ABC signal is crap; we could get it fuzzily on analog, but not at all on digital

When I was a little psho, growing up in Southern California, I had this magical power. Lying in bed, listening to my parents watch TV, I could tell which network they were watching just by the quality of the audio.

If I can recall, it was CBS > NBC > ABC > the other local stations except for > Channel 13, which was the crappiest, even though it had Hobo Kelly, my favorite.

I was very puzzled by the mysterious adult TV shows -- it sounded like a lot of talking, some silence, gunshots and then tires squealing. But mostly it was BLAH BLAH BLAH yap yap yap. I remember reading a TV listing for some show called "The Naked City" and I thought "Oh boy! Nude peoples!" Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I had the same feeling of wonder about the adult section of the public library. OFF LIMITS TO YOUSE KIDS! So I thought it was all cocktails and porn. Imagine my disappointment when I found out it was stuffed with Norman Mailer and bound editions of "Golf Today."
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:46 PM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I rescanned my tuner today, and it picked up a _ton_ of new digital channels (27? 28?), but sort of surprisingly, a handful of analog channels, too. And not just the local "analog is dead, and if you're only just finding this out now, what other news can we bring you up to speed with, Mr. van Winkle?" channel, but something had Wheel of Fortune playing in some weird location on a basic analog channel. Very odd. It was nice to see that my digital reception quality went _way_ up, too. I used to only sort of spottily get a couple of channels on my cheap stick rabbit ear, but now I only fail to get one of the PBS channels. Might be worth getting a HD HomeRun and dropping DirecTV entirely.

On the other hand, I need to talk with my stepdaughter. Her apartment is pretty much smack between the Chicago and Milwaukee markets, and while they could just barely eke out a usable signal over analog, prior to today their convertor box didn't pick up _anything_. They'll be sad puppies if they lose their Simpsons. Hopefully since the broadcaster's total broadcast power isn't split between their analog and digital signals any more, they get better reception.
posted by Kyol at 9:20 PM on June 12, 2009


Maaan, there are a lot of blowhard opinions being tossed around in this thread. It's like Slashdot, only even less informed.

I have been preaching the joys of free over-the-air digital TV for about two years now. Twenty-something channels is plenty, unless you really need 30 basic cable channels full of crap.

Universal Sports launched as a subchannel in my market last month and I watched the Giro d'Italia every night for 3 weeks straight.

Mael Oui, where are you located (major market and actual town) and what kind of antenna do you have, and where is it set up?
posted by intermod at 10:19 PM on June 12, 2009


Hrm, probably better posed over on ask, but:

My attic has a pair of old antennas with 300 ohm twin lead coming off of them. (big ol' log-periodic type and a mesh grid.) Would it be beyond the pale to extend that down through the floor with cat-5, since I have approximately 600' of that on a spool going unused? And then hooking it up to a balun and sticking it onto my tuner and doing a little jig? Someone snipped the wires at some point in the past, and I don't relish trying to sneak twinlead down the walls. Was that basically blatant overkill from a time gone past and now copper is copper since our signal processing is so much more advanced? I just shudder to imagine frotzing the bigscreen with an induced current or something, I guess.

Or do I need to do it right and put a couple of 300-75 baluns in the attic and run coax down to the basement?
posted by Kyol at 10:57 PM on June 12, 2009


A friend of mine is a morning news anchor on a local station, and today everyone at her station--EVERYONE--was required to come in today to answer phone calls from people reporting that the station's transmitter must be down or something and they should send somebody out to check on it.

I texted her some encouragement at 8:30 and she was still there with no sign of being able to leave...indeed, prime time had triggered a whole new flood of calls.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:58 AM on June 13, 2009


"I texted her some encouragement at 8:30 and she was still there with no sign of being able to leave...indeed, prime time had triggered a whole new flood of calls."

Ah, yes, as someone who does tech support for an ISP, this is sort of satisfying to hear. Not that anyone deserves such a fate, but misery loves company.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:28 AM on June 13, 2009


I don't dispute that some of the enthusiasm for the digital conversion is due to companies wanting to sell more kit, or the FCC wanting to make money from the auction, but there's another reason for the switch: modernizing frequency allocation.

Analog TV takes up a lot of spectrum. The standards are old, and inefficient compared to modern digital spectrum usage. Here's a 2003 chart showing radio spectrum allocations [PDF] from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Take a look at the big chunks that were doled out to the TV broadcasters in the early 1950s, with tons of services that have come along since wedged neatly in-between. There are usually only a few TV stations even broadcasting in any given market; it's a big waste of spectrum. The spectrum allocations have to be tended and adjusted as new communications technology is released. Here's a 2001 paper [PDF] on the subject from Thomas W. Hazlett, Director of the Information Economy Project at George Mason University School of Law.

There are a LOT more devices that need to communicate using the radio spectrum than ever before. So don't just go all knee-jerk that GE and the Guvmint are trying to rip everybody off. That may be true, but it doesn't make the switch a bad idea.
posted by dammitjim at 2:12 PM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


What about battery-operated TV sets, like the ones people buy for hurricanes and other emergencies? The good ol' $29 ones won't work any more and, last I checked, the digital ones cost about $200. Is anyone producing cheaper ones, yet?
posted by bentley at 7:21 PM on June 13, 2009


Well, and the other aspect of the same thing, bentley, is that analog performs oh so wonderfully as the noise levels come up, like during a severe storm. Last year, we had a series of terrible thunderstorms come through. As we watched the live weather coverage, first our satellite signal died, then the digital broadcast, then the color portion of the analog broadcast, and finally the video portion, but we always had the audio track, even in the worst of it. It'll be missed.

.
posted by Kyol at 8:31 PM on June 13, 2009


I still get CTV audio on my MP3 player, and the old television we keep at my cottage still gets it too. Hmmm...
posted by tehloki at 1:35 AM on June 14, 2009


That's 87.9mhz in Guelph, btw.
posted by tehloki at 1:36 AM on June 14, 2009


"What about battery-operated TV sets, like the ones people buy for hurricanes and other emergencies? The good ol' $29 ones won't work any more"

The...the what now? Man, y'all have crazy stuff in the US. $29 battery powered TVs??
posted by Bugbread at 2:43 AM on June 14, 2009


I bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood hills
With a truckload of hundred thousand dollar bills
Man came by to hook up my cable TV
We settled in for the night my baby and me
We switched 'round and 'round 'til half-past dawn
There was fifty-seven channels and nothin' on

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:43 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


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