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Digital Transgressions
June 15, 2009 11:16 PM   Subscribe

It doesn't seem as if the digital transition has been the resounding success we were told it would be. The FCC has admitted that they're confounded by some of the problems that have arisen across the country. With frustrated tv viewers mobbing the FCC hotlines (and major metropolises like Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore amongst the largest numbers reporting ongoing problems), some have yet to experience the mind-blowing crystal clear pictures and sound promised in those ubiquitous DTV commercials.

While many local stations have claimed to have completed smooth transitions, viewers continue to have problems picking up reception all over the country. From not setting up supposedly intuitive converter boxes correctly to not having sufficient antennas, many people are still left in the dark. Sure, some of these problems can be easily fixed through troubleshooting with an expert, but it's possible that some reception issues won't be easily remedied. For people who have neither the money nor the technological know-how, solutions are sometimes elusive. "For Charlene Davis, the switch to digital TV has been worse than terrible. "Hell. Hell. It's something we don't understand," the 88-year-old Davis said."

The FCC hotline has extended its 24/7 services and is still running in overdrive. "I am pleased with the way our FCC team responded to the technical challenges that arose throughout the course of the day [June 12, 2009]," acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps said in a statement. "But our job is far from over. This transition is not a one-day affair. We have known about re-scanning and reception issues for some time and have been doing our best to get the word out. We will continue to work with every consumer who needs assistance in making this important and necessary transition."

If you're still having a problem hooking up your 'oh so easy' digital converter boxes or getting any channels (yes, even after you rescan over and over again and try multiple models of new antennas), call 1-888-CALL-FCC for troubleshooting advice. Know that you're not alone, and hopefully we'll all be enjoying our 'free' tv soon.

Besides successfully hooking up the remaining televisions, a few questions remain about our digital future. 1) How will local stations perform in the digital age? and 2) Since many people (myself included) rushed out to spend big bucks to replace old sets that worked fine, will an e-waste crisis be our next concern?

If you're already nostalgic for the good old days of.. five days ago.. when analog reigned supreme, here are some odes to analog: those dependable old sets (and more) and even the lovable rabbit ears that brought living history, laughter, and tears into our homes for over sixty glorious years.
posted by Mael Oui (111 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Full anti-DTV disclosure: I'm one of the lower-income families who made a big investment (for being unemployed and all) and went from having three tvs with good reception for over ten channels to one expensive tv that gets one channel .. sometimes .. for a minute or so at a time .. if I cross my fingers .. on both hands. (Yeah, I do realize I'm going to get snarked to death for this post.)
posted by Mael Oui at 11:17 PM on June 15, 2009


"The change upsets Don Burnsend. He says he never received a coupon, and he has several TV sets needing adjustment. 'This is just another thing being forced on me, that I really don't have time to deal with.'"

Perhaps he'd have more time, in general, if he had fewer TVs?
posted by HopperFan at 11:21 PM on June 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND still sucks.
posted by philip-random at 11:21 PM on June 15, 2009


Digital is great for my household. We don't have cable and live near the base of a hill; we went from 3 very fuzzy channels to 15-20 crystal clear ones. (Only the NBC affiliate is pixillated for us, with a small old-fashioned antenna and my coupon-subsidized converter, recommended in AskMeFi.
posted by msalt at 11:32 PM on June 15, 2009


This reminds me of something, I've been aware of the whole DTV thing for quite some time thanks to the endless commercials and news segments that have been shoved down my throat since god knows how long, but I never remember them mentioning that those people with analog TVs with rabbit ears would have to buy a new antennae. I never remember hearing once anything about it, even though it's just as important as the converter box itself. That made me think that it was an effort to misinform clueless people that thought they could get a converter box for free only to end up spending money on the necessary antennae. I dunno, maybe that's just me, the switch didn't affect me anyway.
posted by dead cousin ted at 11:34 PM on June 15, 2009


(this is just an exact repeat of the analogue-digital switch in other countries, of course.)

(except that I don't remember people buying new sets en masse over here; everyone just got a converter or two, cursed a bit when installing them, and then everyone ended up buying fancy new flat-screen thingies a couple of years later, when the prices dropped, and cursed a bit when installing these.)
posted by effbot at 11:34 PM on June 15, 2009


Was the switch to digital part of the stimulus package to create jobs in China and Taiwan making digital TVs? My hotshot radio no longer has access to the TV channels it is supposed to receive. Is there a government coupon for some gadget that will make it work again?

Whose idea was the switch to digital? Just give me a name - I knew this buggy whip would come in handy someday.
posted by Cranberry at 11:39 PM on June 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


Good riddance snow.

Now somebody let me know when I can blow some money on shiny new devices making use of this great frequency range.
posted by floam at 11:42 PM on June 15, 2009


(Yeah, I do realize I'm going to get snarked to death for this post.)

Don't do this. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all that. Just make a good post and ride it out, baby.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:46 PM on June 15, 2009


dead cousin ted - Exactly! When the transition was supposed to be in February, the commercials only mentioned the easy converter box. That's it. After the government pushed it back, some commercials started slipping in: 'You may need a digital antenna.' In the few weeks before the transition was complete, my local Fox affiliate elaborated further by saying that about 20% of the viewers would not be able to get by with an indoor antenna and would need to install a higher power outdoor antenna. Which makes no sense to me because I'm right outside of a city (Philadelphia) and never had reception issues before (nor did I ever need an outdoor antenna).

Obviously, the FCC put a lot of effort into those videos of elderly ladies hooking up their converter boxes (probably with someone telling them what to do off-camera), but they really should have been more vocal about these reception issues since they apparently knew about them. Antennaweb is useful, but I think you have to be a little more tech savvy than I am to fully understand some of the information.
posted by Mael Oui at 11:47 PM on June 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Do I get to be the one who says "I only use my TV set for xbox" this time? Awesome.

Just like Hendrick's Gin, switching all your television over to the computer really is as good as MetaFilter lead you to wish it would be.




Thinking back, though, I remember that my mom got some new adapter/antenna type thing, and she went from 1 fuzzy PBS station to 3 clear ones, so she was pretty stoked about it.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:57 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I looked on antenna web and determined that I would need an antenna that did VHF and UHF. I think in some areas you can get by with just a VHF antenna, though. I got my coupon, bought a nice converter box and a good antenna, spending around $60 out-of-pocket, and I get a few more channels now than I did w/ the old rabbit ears (which were VHF/UHF also).

And just because I'm such a saint, I helped set up the old dude at the liquor store up the street. I kept telling him he had to get a coupon so he could get a near-free box, and he finally did, so last time I was in there I helped set up his box. His old antenna did VHF/UHF, so it worked like a charm. Hey, turn Americorps into a temp' force of DTV transition techs! Those kids love hooking up new-fangled stuff for old people!

Plus, on NBC Universal, I can watch the olympic qualifying rounds for curling for free! No shit! What the hell is NBC thinking with that channel? (click the "What's on TV" link)
posted by Lukenlogs at 12:12 AM on June 16, 2009


Which makes no sense to me because I'm right outside of a city (Philadelphia) and never had reception issues before (nor did I ever need an outdoor antenna).

The answer to your question is contained in one of the very links you posted.

Digital signals, however, are different. They only extend about 40 miles from the station’s transmitting antenna and are more susceptible to multipath interference caused by tall trees or buildings. Even a small obstruction of the signal will cause a TV set’s picture to freeze, pixilate or disappear completely. For this reason, expect some familiar stations to disappear completely.

The reason for the existence of the the word "change" is the need to describe something that no longer is exactly the same as it once was.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:21 AM on June 16, 2009


I'm angry just because my band has one less effect (Spanish language TV) to work with in a portable environment.
posted by queensissy at 12:25 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I'm one of the lower-income families who made a big investment (for being unemployed and all) and went from having three tvs with good reception for over ten channels to one expensive tv that gets one channel"

If you have limited means and desire three tvs why wouldn't you just buy three converter boxes? Or alternatively two converter boxes and a kick ass antenna. You'd still have two working TVs and in a few months you could buy the big screen. Heck decreasing demand would probably mean you wouldn't have to even save up any more money. I mean the picture wouldn't be as good via converter but it shouldn't be significantly worse than analog either.
posted by Mitheral at 12:26 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The answer to your question is contained in one of the very links you posted.

That's good and all, but I'm the only person in my family that knew about that link or is savvy enough to actually look it up. The problem is with everyone else. Unless you had more detailed PSAs in my area than I did, you'd have no clue about it otherwise.
posted by dead cousin ted at 12:32 AM on June 16, 2009


Out of idle curiosity, I wonder if it would be less expensive to pay for cable for the small % of American households impacted by this switch than it would be to staff call centers and run thousands of hours of ads (I know they were PSAs, but they still have an opportunity cost)?

This strikes similar to the cost we paid at my last job maintaining a compatible site for that incredible piece of trash, WebTV - along with the cost of supporting the people who kept writing us with issues. We actually did the math and figured out that we could afford to buy everyone who bought a WebTV a real PC rather than pay to support our service on their software. Hope this isn't the same situation the FCC is in.
posted by pkingdesign at 12:40 AM on June 16, 2009


in your area
posted by dead cousin ted at 12:41 AM on June 16, 2009


One of our digital PBS channels goes from all-kid all the time to all-food all the time on the weekends, so that totally helps our food-loving, non-cable family in the long run. Having to assume the FOXTVpositions to get the antenna to work... well, we aren't the biggest fans.

Our family pays for cable for internet and local phone, but nothing else. We have a computer hooked up to the TV so we can watch various Adult Swim shows when the kids are gone and History channel, etc. when they are home.

I don't know. I'm happy to have a couple extra PBS channels. We only watch a handful of network shows as a family. I'm almost embarrassed to say that Survivor is on that list and that I watched the off-screen parts online to get more of the back story and Ponderosa. But, you know, those folks had to work to eat.

We just recalibrated our antenna and box setup tonight and got totally random stuff today, depending on where the antenna was. We hadn't gotten NBC or FOX in months, as they are affiliates here, but we did today. After watching House (and I love that actor) and the Tim Roth (him, too) show about body language, I can't say I'm missing much.

This isn't me dissing the general network offerings. There are some of those we love as a family. But we don't bother with cable TV, because that would be too much of a monthly expense. I'm just unsure how to respond to the whole DTV thing being a PITA and as a general consumer without cable TV.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:55 AM on June 16, 2009


I have been working with my 88-year-old father on his DTV setup for over a month; he has always gotten crappy reception using an indoor antenna in his San Fernando Valley apartment but is nearsighted and deaf in one ear so the improvement in picture (when it comes in) is hardly noticeable to him, but when the signal quality drops below the threshold where the picture freezes and the sound goes off... THAT'S really easy to notice. Add to that the fact that the GE converter box he got at Target turns out to be the worst on the market (did the parent company of NBC and all its cable channels do this intentionally to get more people to switch to cable?!? Hmmm?!?) and when the changeover happened, four of the eight channels he usually watches disappeared completely from the digital band for him. I tried talking him through a rescan via telephone (my home is 180 miles from his) but he is unable to understand the concepts of (1) using arrow keys to move around an on-screen menu and (2) not touching anything while the scan is in progress ("but there's a lot of stuff changing on the screen" "that's because it's scanning, dad"). I seem to have confirmation that he completed a rescan twice, but none of the missing channels have made a re-appearance. (He did admit to messing with the antenna but claims he has returned it to the contortionist position I used to get all the channels before, but I sincerely doubt it) I have put an order in for another $40 coupon which I will use to buy one of the best rated converters plus a made-for-digital indoor antenna from amazon.com which I will then install all over again and if that doesn't work, I'll buy him a plane ticket to Washington D.C. so he can talk to all of the FCC Commissioners, which should be punishment enough for them.
posted by wendell at 1:36 AM on June 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


and major metropolises like Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore amongst the largest numbers reporting ongoing problems

most likely because they had the largest numbers of viewers on anntennas. In those markets you can get very many stations without having to pay for cable, in the sticks, not so much.
posted by caddis at 4:16 AM on June 16, 2009


I looked on antenna web and determined that I would need an antenna that did VHF and UHF.

When making the transition, two of our affiliates went from UHF to VHF, so we had to get an antenna that could do both too. GEE THANKS NBC AND ABC.
posted by Lucinda at 4:49 AM on June 16, 2009


Is this something I would have to have digits to understand?
posted by DU at 4:54 AM on June 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wait...I totally don't get this. We're doing the digital transition in Japan in 2011, but the way it works is: everybody is already broadcasting in digital, and analogue. So if you get a digital TV (or a converter box, though I doubt anyone would get them so early), you can thoroughly troubleshoot way way before you lose your analogue signals.

Am I to understand that in America, there was no digital broadcasting whatsoever, and then on the last day of analogue, they turned on the digital signals en masse? And, if I'm understanding that correctly, then what is the reason for that? That's too much of a massive clusterfuck to be due to just overlooking an alternative. There must be some technical or legal reason why it had to be that way. What's up?
posted by Bugbread at 5:34 AM on June 16, 2009


bugbread, no the digital signals have been on the air for a while, people just ignored the issue.
posted by octothorpe at 5:38 AM on June 16, 2009


To be fair, I'm a pretty technical person and the little information I could find on the DTV switch was kinda confusing and unhelpful. Like, what's all this about cable channels moving around too?
posted by DU at 5:42 AM on June 16, 2009


While some of the reported problems are actually technical in nature, it looked like some large proportion of the problems people had stemmed from the fact that cheap consumer electronics have shitty user interfaces.

"Am I to understand that in America, there was no digital broadcasting whatsoever, and then on the last day of analogue, they turned on the digital signals en masse?"

You misunderstand. Digital broadcasting has been going on for years.
posted by majick at 5:46 AM on June 16, 2009


There must be some technical or legal reason why it had to be that way. What's up?

That's basically correct, yes. If they didn't cut off the analog signals then they would not have been able to sell the resulting chunk of radio spectrum to various telecommunication companies for cold hard cash, and thus would not have been able to pass any DTV legislation in the first place.
posted by odinsdream at 5:55 AM on June 16, 2009


Ah, ok, thanks octothorpe and majick. That makes a lot more sense.

I guess I had always imagined that there would be three groups of people:
1) Folks who successfully set their digital stuff up before the switch
2) Folks who set their digital stuff up before the switch, had problems (needing new antennas, bad converters) and had a big fight to get things working
3) Folks who didn't set their digital stuff up before the switch, and then were all surprised when the analogue went out.

I never thought there would be a fourth group: folks who set their digital stuff up before the switch, but didn't even think to try it out until the analogue disappeared. Hence my confusion when reading articles about people scanning for new channels only when the old channels disappeared. I figured that must be because the digital channels didn't exist before the switch, not because they had the energy to go out, buy, and hook up their digital equipment, but didn't have the energy to actually turn it on.
posted by Bugbread at 5:55 AM on June 16, 2009


"That's basically correct, yes. If they didn't cut off the analog signals then they would not have been able to sell the resulting chunk of radio spectrum to various telecommunication companies for cold hard cash, and thus would not have been able to pass any DTV legislation in the first place."

No, sorry, I meant that there must have been a technical reason why they couldn't turn on the digital signals until the analogue were turned off. I see now that this was a misunderstanding, and they were in fact doing concurrent digital and analogue broadcasting. I understand the reasoning behind the turning off of the analogue itself.
posted by Bugbread at 5:59 AM on June 16, 2009


My dad has been quite happy with the introduction of digital broadcast TV. He now gets a lot more stations with much better picture quality than he did before. Many of those are from the US (we're in Canada).

But he does have a home built setup of multiple antennas and amplifiers that would make the NSA jealous, which he has had since long before digital TV was even being contemplated. So when they talk about not having sufficient antennas, I think they might be onto something there.

In addition to some people just procrastinating, a lot of people simply don't understand what this is all about. Only when their TV stops "working" do they understand that they have to do something about this.
posted by FishBike at 5:59 AM on June 16, 2009


I'm not sure if my experience is representative but I live out in the country 28 miles from our local TV transmitters and got perfect DTV reception on all the channels with an external antenna. No noticeable artifacts (which I can see plainly on DirecTV). This antenna gave marginal reception with the old NTSC broadcasts, so I'm a fan of DTV now.

Now about the topic of what to watch besides SNL, beats me.
posted by crapmatic at 6:00 AM on June 16, 2009


I'm a reasonably technical person. There are certainly more technically capable people than me. However, I’ve written 16 computer books, so there are definitely people who are less technical than me, too!

Anyhow, I'm in charge of my 91-year-old Dad's DTV transition. He lives in Queens, about 20-25 miles from the main NYC transmitters, and he never had any problem with analog signals.

I went out and bought him a new digital TV. No signal at all. I went to Best Buy and purchased the antenna they recommended. Received two of New York’s many channels, occasionally, with constant freezes. Went back to Best Buy and was told that whoever recommended that antenna was a fool; purchased the best antenna in the store, spent an hour experimenting with positioning it. Wound up getting the majority of New York’s digital channels, the majority of the time. Lousy, but tolerable.

So the transition happens and my Dad calls – not only are all the analog channels gone, but the DIGITAL channels are gone, too.

I assume this means we need to rescan. Tell a 91-year-old living alone how to rescan his digital TV set, over the phone! Nobody ever had to rescan analog sets after they were set up, and (while it makes sense upon reflection) I can remember no publicity whatsoever about that. And I read a LOT.

I’ll be visiting him Saturday and we’ll see if rescanning does the job. I’m hopeful that some of these stations have boosted their signals now that analog is turned off, and he’ll get solid reception. Hopeful, but very skeptical.

The digital TV transition has overpromised and underdelivered. If you’re lucky enough to get great reception, that’s what you are: lucky.

If you want to believe that millions of people are just too stupid or ignorant to have prepared successfully, I have to respectfully differ.

If you want to tell people to read a book instead, I’ll say this: my Dad does that. He reads. He listens to (horrid) talk radio. He’s engaged in the world. He doesn’t want to watch TV all day. But it’s not too much to ask that he should be able to watch a ballgame or a PBS concert now and then for free, just as he has for the past five decades.

And if you want to tell me that I’m pretty dumb about this stuff, fine. But the median technical expertise of the folks who are most affected by this switch is a whole lot worse than mine. This was never realistically taken into account. The four month delay definitely helped, but it came nowhere near solving the problem completely.
posted by bcamarda at 6:01 AM on June 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


I was just floored by the number of households not on cable. I thought I was the only one. And dead cousin ted is right. In my area, the PSAs only mentioned buying a converter box. It wasn't until I researched them that I saw the dreaded words rooftop antenna. I'm very fortunate to live on the top floor on top of a hill so my analog reception was clear and the digital one is mostly clear (when it's not windy) with my same-old rabbit-ears.

Make tv has a digital antenna from coat hangers that I want to try so I can get that last pesky UHF station. I'm also upping my Netflix subscription.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:18 AM on June 16, 2009


We had our converter box set up ages ago. When the big switch happened we lost all our stations till I unplugged the box, waited five minutes, plugged back in, then rescanned for channels.

I have had to rescan every day since the switch. We finally have most of the channels we had before except our ABC affiliate, who because of reasons stated upthread, now has a weaker signal. My husband jokingly says it's all a big plot to persuade people to throw up their hands and get cable or satellite.

Our budget dictates that we either have high speed internet OR cable/satellite. So I guess we'll deal, since MY priorities are the same. ;-)

Oh, and do research if you are gonna buy new rabbit ears. The proper equipment depends on where you live and what channels you want to get.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:19 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know that CBS in NYC moved from channel 56 to 33 on the transition day. This is the same channel as CBS in CT, so there have been a lot of reports of issues.

If you want to believe that millions of people are just too stupid or ignorant to have prepared successfully, I have to respectfully differ.

In your same comment, you basically say that people aren't tech-savvy enough to handle DTV.
posted by smackfu at 6:20 AM on June 16, 2009


And actually, I think that is the most interesting thing about this. It's one of the only "forced" adoptions of technology in US history. Phones haven't changed since direct dialing. You can just ignore the internet and digital cameras and cell phones if you want. Cable is analogous... but the cable guy sets everything up so you don't really have to deal with it.
posted by smackfu at 6:27 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, another question about the transition: I am now understanding that digital channels changed channels on transition day (that is, pre-transition channel XYZ might have been 55, and post-transition it might have become 66). From a technical standpoint, why is that?
posted by Bugbread at 6:30 AM on June 16, 2009


Sorry, minor correction: I am now understanding that some digital channels changed channels on transition day (not all or even necessarily most).
posted by Bugbread at 6:30 AM on June 16, 2009


From a technical standpoint, why is that?

Running analog and digital stations at the same time required more channels than were available in some areas. So they had to assign some broadcasters digital channels in the range of 52-59. But that's what was sold off in the 700 MHz auctions in 2008. Now that it's post-transition, those auction winners want to use their billion-dollar prizes, and the digital channels in that band have to move to spaces that are clear due to the analog stations being shut off.
posted by smackfu at 6:50 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ok, another question about the transition: I am now understanding that digital channels changed channels on transition day (that is, pre-transition channel XYZ might have been 55, and post-transition it might have become 66). From a technical standpoint, why is that?

The whole concept of a "channel number" with digital TV has gotten more complicated. With analog TV, it was pretty simple. The channel number just represent a specific frequency, and the mapping of channel numbers to frequency assignments was quite straightforward and the same everywhere in North America. It had to be this way to sell TVs with very simple tuners that showed channel numbers instead of frequencies.

With digital TV, the channel number is part of the broadcast data. There is no longer a simple mapping between frequency and the channel number you see--a broadcast on any frequency can be presented on any arbitrary channel number.

Analog and digital broadcasts can't share the same frequency, and while stations have been broadcasting in both formats, they seem to have handled the digital channel numbering in different ways. Some have assigned the same "channel number" for their digital broadcasts that they use for their analog broadcast, so that from the viewer's point of view it's always "channel 4" (for example) even though the digital broadcast is not using the same frequency as analog channel 4. A few have had the digital "channel number" match the actual frequency slot their digital broadcast is on (e.g. the same station might be analog channel 55 and digital channel 66).

That was confusing enough, but after the shutdown of analog broadcasts, things have changed for a lot of stations. Many were assigned temporary frequency allocations for their digital broadcasts, with the understanding that once their analog broadcasts ended, the digital ones would move to the frequency slot they'd been using for analog. I think this is why a lot of people found their digital stations disappeared too until they rescanned all the channels again.

Some might even have kept the same frequency for their digital broadcast that they've been using all along, but changed the assigned "channel number" to match, since they no longer had an analog channel that they wanted to keep the same "channel number" from (if you see what I mean there).
posted by FishBike at 6:53 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


DU, the cable companies are taking advantage of the confusion over the over-the-air conversion to digital to do their own conversion to digital.

Transmitting analog over cable uses up a lot of the cables available bandwidth. So cable companies prefer to send nothing but digital signals. Cable digital uses a different technology than over-the-air digital, so you need a cable converter box even with many new televisions, and there is no coupon from the government if get their box. I think the reason many of them are converting over now is to create confusion, telling their customers that they have to buy the new box because 'the whole country is converting to digital'. Really it is a separate event.

But the cable conversion is really only offering benefits to the cable companies. They ought to be offering their digital boxes for free. They improve their system and make the customers pay for it.
posted by eye of newt at 6:54 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Long before the original deadline, I took my little coupon to the store and got myself one of those digimal converter boxes.

Now, when I heard the term "digital converter box" I had (foolishly) assumed that it was a converter box - that you'd plug an antenna into it, and it would convert the digital signal to analog, and then pipe that into the TV via RF cable or the antenna hookup.

No, this POS (the only model they had at my local store) had was more like a miniature, yet crappy, cable box with it's own remote control and everything. (a remote control that my universal remote, and apparently all others on earth according to the googles, will not work with)

This thing had to be plugged into the TV (after turning on the TV with a whole 'nother remote) and then channels had to be selected with the cheap, crappy remote.

PITA is an understatement - not even discussing the reception problems.

All of my tv had been "digital" for quite a while - DVDs from Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and now streaming Netflix on my Xbox - so I decided that I'm digital enough, thank you, and unplugged the silly thing, wrapped it up in a bag, and gave it to Goodwill.

I have a hard time just throwing away a metric fuck-ton glass and plastic which still works just fine - so I'll just wait for Bertha (the tv) to die of old age before I worry about this nonsense again.
posted by device55 at 6:56 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


that you'd plug an antenna into it, and it would convert the digital signal to analog, and then pipe that into the TV via RF cable or the antenna hookup.

I don't think that's possible without having a tuner for every separate channel. As far as I know, all converter boxes work like yours,.
posted by smackfu at 7:01 AM on June 16, 2009


I live in Chicago. In the tv in my bedroom, channel 56, an Indiana PBS station, comes in fine through the converter box. Very clear. But in my living room, the converter box doesn't get it. It says no signal. WTF? How can I get the channel in one room and not in another? And channel 2 was fine before the switch, but now the picture freezes & messes up almost continually.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:04 AM on June 16, 2009


As far as I know, all converter boxes work like yours

That makes perfect sense - and it wouldn't have been such a problem if the remote that shipped with the product actually worked (instead of ignoring every third button press) or if I could have gotten my new universal remote to talk to it instead.

It seems like most of these converter boxes were really poorly made - and unless you were willing to hunt on the webbernets or in electronics stores you are going to get stuck with whatever crappy model they carry at your local electronics store.
posted by device55 at 7:09 AM on June 16, 2009


If you want to believe that millions of people are just too stupid or ignorant to have prepared successfully, I have to respectfully differ.

I have lots of prior stupid experience, and will continue to believe this.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:09 AM on June 16, 2009


The dirty little secret of DTV is that the broadcast coverage areas are significantly different than analog. Which is perfectly understandable, if this was 2006. There has been plenty of time to modify the broadcast antennas and transmitters but it doesn't seem to have happened in a lot of places. It's almost like the digital transition was a plot intended to force everyone onto cable and satellite. But I'm sure the FCC would never let that happen.
posted by tommasz at 7:14 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


So do I understand this right: a country the size of the USA and they shut down the analogue signal everywhere at the same time? In the UK we've got a fairly extended phased programme of analogue shutdown. (My region will stop analogue broadcasts this November, whereas London won't follow suit until 2012.)
posted by Electric Dragon at 7:18 AM on June 16, 2009


HMM, people that are either too ignorant, lazy, or illiterate to realize something about their idiot box is changing are now unable to view said idiot box.

Exactly what is wrong with this predicament?
posted by HyperBlue at 7:20 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


HMM, people that are either too ignorant, lazy, or illiterate to realize something about their idiot box is changing are now unable to view said idiot box.

Exactly what is wrong with this predicament?


I think what's wrong is the hypothesis that ignorance, laziness, or illiteracy are the only reasons why people are now encountering problems. Even some quite clever and literate people who had everything working nicely before the analog switch-off have run into trouble since then.
posted by FishBike at 7:28 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Exactly what is wrong with this predicament?

Uh, that a government mandated infrastructure boondoggle has been poorly planned and executed, and is costing ordinary citizens lots of time and money?

That it's pushing people to buy electronic equipment they don't want or need?

That it's likely to funnel many people away from a free service they've enjoyed all their lives into paid subscription plans provided by companies who lobby the hell out of the same government who planned the change?
posted by device55 at 7:34 AM on June 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm with bcamarda--I'm more technical than average, and better informed, and I'm having all sorts of problems. I'm in DC, on a hill, with no significant obstructions, with a new TV and new antenna, and barely get ABC and CBS after a major struggle.

I just don't get it--isn't it in the best interests of the newtworks, and their advertisers, to make sure I, an above-average income consumer, can see thier broadcast? Are they really this incompetent? I swear, I'm starting to believe the cable/satellite provider conspiracy.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:39 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


So do I understand this right: a country the size of the USA and they shut down the analogue signal everywhere at the same time?

Yes, except they did Hawaii early, in January, as a test run. There are arguments for a phased shutdown (less call volume, more test runs) and arguments against (clear message with a single date, allows nationwide advertising).
posted by smackfu at 7:42 AM on June 16, 2009


I just don't get it--isn't it in the best interests of the newtworks, and their advertisers, to make sure I, an above-average income consumer, can see thier broadcast?

Psst. Most people in your class have cable.
posted by smackfu at 7:43 AM on June 16, 2009


"It's almost like the digital transition was a plot intended to force everyone onto cable and satellite. But I'm sure the FCC would never let that happen."

I seriously doubt it's a plot to force everyone onto cable and satellite, since we're switching to digital in Japan as well, where there's almost no cable whatsoever, and satellite doesn't carry (as far as I know) the standard stations, just the satellite-only stations.

Unless, of course, the US switched to digital because of a nefarious plot, while Japan entirely coincidentally also decided to switch to digital.
posted by Bugbread at 7:47 AM on June 16, 2009


I swear, I'm starting to believe the cable/satellite provider conspiracy.

Well, the act that set the deadline for cessation of analog service, signed into law by Bush in 2009, was part of the "Deficit Reduction Act of 2005."

Maybe the idea was to stimulate the economy by forcing people to buy new TVs and converter boxes.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:49 AM on June 16, 2009


HMM, people that are either too ignorant, lazy, or illiterate to realize something about their idiot box is changing are now unable to view said idiot box.

Exactly what is wrong with this predicament?


Someone seems to be lacking in experience with the elderly.
posted by caddis at 8:01 AM on June 16, 2009


"I think what's wrong is the hypothesis that ignorance, laziness, or illiteracy are the only reasons why people are now encountering problems. Even some quite clever and literate people who had everything working nicely before the analog switch-off have run into trouble since then."

Clever, literate, procrastinators. Apparently procrastinators that never would have done anything (despite repeated, instructional warnings of pending analog doom) until D-Day. Now D-Day, is here and one must finally heed the instructions, or stop watching. Resistance is futile at this point.
posted by HyperBlue at 8:10 AM on June 16, 2009


No, caddis. I helped several of the elderly with this issue MONTHS AGO when the original Feb date was coming up. Seriously, my grandmother and a friend's grandmother asked me WAY BEFORE then because of the commercials as well as the non-stop announcements on the local news. There is no one in the target audience that was not forewarned.
posted by HyperBlue at 8:13 AM on June 16, 2009


Clever, literate, procrastinators. Apparently procrastinators that never would have done anything (despite repeated, instructional warnings of pending analog doom) until D-Day. Now D-Day, is here and one must finally heed the instructions, or stop watching. Resistance is futile at this point.

There are people who went out and bought the converter boxes, got them working successfully, and have been watching digital TV for a while. And due to a bunch of other changes that happened during the analog switch-off, their setup stopped working. I'm not clear on what they should have done sooner.

Or see earlier in this thread where people described this kind of problem with things they had set up properly for relatives, and which they are now having to troubleshoot remotely.
posted by FishBike at 8:16 AM on June 16, 2009


HyperBlue: "HMM, people that are either too ignorant, lazy, or illiterate to realize something about their idiot box is changing are now unable to view said idiot box.

Exactly what is wrong with this predicament?


The vast majority of those people either don't speak English (how many Spanish PSAs did you see?), are poor (how much community outreach did you see?) or elderly (how many 85 year olds do you know who can climb on their roof and install / adjust an antenna?).

There's also an argument from principle here. Up until Friday, any television that worked could get at least some TV signals - because analog signals were forgiving, that meant getting up to 4 commercial networks and, importantly, public television. It didn't matter how small or old your TV was, you got TV. That meant almost every kid in the country had access to Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street, almost every adult had access to this society's primary method of transmitting emergency information, and almost everyone regardless of income had access to the machine which (for better or worse) defines culture in American society.

On Friday, we set the baseline for watching TV at around $200 (say, $50 for a converter box, $150 for an antenna ... these are fairly conservative estimates). Even with that investment, many people who got several channels before Friday now get few or none and will have to switch to cable / satellite and put down a ton more money. All this on the promise of freeing up spectrum, most of which will be sold to cell phone providers so they can sell you video on your phones for even more money. We're now left with the radio as the only part of public spectrum which anyone, for a nominal investment, can use and enjoy. That's troubling.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:25 AM on June 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


Why would I want to bother with the new DTV?
I have Metafilter: All the news that's blue.

(My parents have went from 6 stations to 2 - lost PBS in the process. It's like they are back in the 1970s - but digital.)
posted by rough ashlar at 8:26 AM on June 16, 2009


The sky was the color of television tuned to a dead channel. — opening line of Neuromancer.
posted by Nelson at 8:39 AM on June 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


On Friday, we set the baseline for watching TV at around $200 (say, $50 for a converter box, $150 for an antenna ... these are fairly conservative estimates).

How so? Converter boxes are under $10 with the coupon. You can't buy a new TV that needs a converter box. $150 gets you a heck of an antenna... for under $50, you usually do fine. It's not like TVs didn't need antennas before.
posted by smackfu at 8:45 AM on June 16, 2009


The sky was the color of television tuned to a dead channel.

Solid bright blue?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:50 AM on June 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


I guess this is basically the end of TV DX-ing.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:54 AM on June 16, 2009


Point
HyperBlue: "Clever, literate, procrastinators. Apparently procrastinators that never would have done anything (despite repeated, instructional warnings of pending analog doom) until D-Day. Now D-Day, is here and one must finally heed the instructions, or stop watching. Resistance is futile at this point."

Counterpoint
wendell: "I have been working with my 88-year-old father on his DTV setup for over a month...when the changeover happened, four of the eight channels he usually watches disappeared completely from the digital band for him."

bcamarda: "I went out and bought him a new digital TV...Wound up getting the majority of New York’s digital channels, the majority of the time. Lousy, but tolerable. So the transition happens and my Dad calls – not only are all the analog channels gone, but the DIGITAL channels are gone, too."

St Alia of the Bunnies: "We had our converter box set up ages ago. When the big switch happened we lost all our stations till I unplugged the box, waited five minutes, plugged back in, then rescanned for channels. I have had to rescan every day since the switch."
posted by Bugbread at 8:56 AM on June 16, 2009


smackfu: "On Friday, we set the baseline for watching TV at around $200 (say, $50 for a converter box, $150 for an antenna ... these are fairly conservative estimates).

How so? Converter boxes are under $10 with the coupon. You can't buy a new TV that needs a converter box. $150 gets you a heck of an antenna... for under $50, you usually do fine. It's not like TVs didn't need antennas before.
"

$150 is about what you'd have to spend in a lot of rural areas. Keep in mind, most digital signals are transmitted on UHF, which has forced a lot of people to trash their VHF-only antennas.

The coupon program is great, but it a) won't be around forever, and b) is an expense that taxpayers put up. Many people have had problems with expired coupons, hitting their two-coupon limit, haven't had access to the tools to get a coupon, don't know coupons exist, etc. I'm assuming worst-case scenario here, admittedly, but among the estimated 16.5M million who lost TV on Friday, we can assume at least a good portion are worst-case.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:09 AM on June 16, 2009


Also, check bcamarda's comment above. I doubt he's the only person who had to buy the priciest antenna in the story. Count in all the people who will buy more technology than they need, and I think you'd get to $150 pretty easily.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:15 AM on June 16, 2009


Here in Toronto, Canada, I bought a DTV converter box last month. I was previously aware that the quality of these boxes seemed to be all over the place so I did a little research before buying a unit.

Yes the converters are all a bit fussy, cheaply made, and the remote's not stellar... but it's working. A decent antenna is key. I built an antenna following these plans (very similar to the Make one posted earlier) and it works fairly well when set up in the attic.

We've never been on cable at this house, and by going DTV we are actually getting more Canadian and US channels now. Apparently, this is a common experience in Toronto, and with 10+ over the air stations available, many in HD, alot of people are questioning why they should pay $30+ a month to cable for an inferior picture.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:18 AM on June 16, 2009


My experience, for what it's worth. I bought a converter box (Apex DT250) and an indoor antenna (Terk HDTVi Antenna Pro) a few months ago. I live in an apartment. The antenna has a directional UHF antenna and rabbit ears for VHF. Things were working fine until midnight Friday. I rescanned, and everything came back except WHDH (Ch. 7). I tried rescanning a few times, then went to bed. On Saturday, I learned that WHDH was shifting from UHF to VHF, so I pulled out the rabbit ears (which I wasn't using before). Rescanned. Still no WHDH. Their broadcast antenna is close to WFXT, which was coming in fine. Called WHDH, left message. Sunday morning. Rescanned; no improvement. Sunday late afternoon. Futzed with antenna, rescanned. All of a sudden, WHDH is there, coming in just fine (signal strength 75%). WHDH calls back that evening. Told them everything's OK, asked what they did. They claimed they didn't do anything, but I doubt that. I don't think what I did with the antenna was enough to make such a dramatic difference. Anyway, things are working reasonably well now. The DT250 occasionally turns itself off (typically after about six hours of continual operation); also poor reception can get it wedged such that I need to turn it off and on. I think the occasional poor reception is due to local RF noise; the signal strength stays high, but the signal quality goes down. Whenever I rescan, the "favorite channel" list gets erased. What fun.

If anyone has good advice about a better converter box, I'd appreciate it.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:21 AM on June 16, 2009


From the research my husband did awhile back, I think the key is in the antenna not the box. We might have to suck it up and get an outdoor antenna (or bite the bullet and get basic cable, not that I need one more freaking bill.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:35 AM on June 16, 2009


Initially I was after the APEXDT250 because it was one of the few with a component video out, but after I read some reviews saying it's receiver was only mediocre, I bought the Tivax STB-T8.

> Whenever I rescan, the "favorite channel" list gets erased.

Ouch. The Tivax has an "Add Channels" scan that will only add to the current list.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:44 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm one of those odd people with over the air TV and Tivo. The change over has gone pretty smoothly for me in downtown San Francisco. I get much better reception than I did a year ago with analog.

The rescan after the changeover was a bit of a surprise to me since everything just mostly worked up till that point, but only took a couple minutes to deal with.

The most annoying thing about the DTV change-over is now flipping through the channels takes a non-trivial amount of time unlike analog. It really annoys my ADD.

For the most part, an antenna is an antenna is an antenna, don't get suckered into buying more than you need.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:57 AM on June 16, 2009


The biggest annoyance for me is all the sub-channels. My local PBS set up 4 and is only using 2, so the other 2 are just black all the time. But they show up in the channel list when you rescan, and you have to manually delete them. Awesome!
posted by smackfu at 10:01 AM on June 16, 2009


Smackfu,

Dunno if you want to delete those. It may be different in the US, but the use or nonuse of subchannels can be done on-the-fly. One of the stations here has 4 sub-channels, and normally broadcasts on only one, leaving the other 3 empty. However, from time to time they broadcast two shows simultaneously, and occasionally 3. If you delete them outright, you won't know when they aren't in use, and when they are.
posted by Bugbread at 10:07 AM on June 16, 2009


Thanks, Artful Codger. Your comment inspired me to poke around the menus, but I didn't find an "add channels" option. But I did solve the "turning itself off" problem. The "auto sleep" option was set to four hours. I don't recall setting it; I don't know whether it's the default. Actually, it may be premature to say I solved it, but I suspect that's what was going on.

Also, I have an Apex DT502, not a DT250. Sorry for the error.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 10:09 AM on June 16, 2009


Y'know what? Frak it. The new tuner doesn't work, the new antenna doesn't help (and we're only a few miles from most of the broadcast antennas.)

We only really use the TV on the weekend (talking heads/sports) and the rest of the time we do DVDs or Torrents on our laptops. So, screw 'em. We'll listen to the radio on Sunday. Good job, broadcasters. Hope you're happy with your extra bandwidth.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:11 AM on June 16, 2009


Hope you're happy with your extra bandwidth.

They didn't get any extra bandwidth. Well, they did, they got an extra channel for the last 5 years, but they had to give it up on Friday.

The extra bandwidth was actually sold in auctions in 2008. The government took in roughly $20 billion dollars.
posted by smackfu at 10:19 AM on June 16, 2009


I went out and bought two converter boxes at Walmart way back as soon as the govt sent out the coupons. I actually downgraded my antenna setup from a ancient rooftop vhf/uhf unit to a diy settop unit. Not quite rabbit ears, more like four small wire stars, arranged on a flat piece of wood about the size of a pad of notebook paper. Works fantastic here in West L.A. easily tripling the number of channels I got over analog. There have been some quirks since the official changeover a few days ago, however, which I find amusing since it all worked flawlessly before the transition.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:41 AM on June 16, 2009


I stopped watching TV several months ago. Reading this thread reinforces my faith in that decision.
posted by jmnugent at 11:41 AM on June 16, 2009


For those who see this as a conspiracy to move people to cable/satellite, let me tell you that the interests of advertisers will trump the interests of broadcasters/cable providers every time. In this case the interest of advertisers is to have as many people watching their commercials as possible and to keep the number of households/people using television (HUT/PUT) as consistent as possible. It's a question of accurate measurement, which is tied into both the money paid to broadcasters for advertising, and the way in which returns on that investment are calculated. If the confusion continues, a large number of advertisers are going to be very unhappy.

For those arguing that this is primarily targeted at low-income or non-English speaking people, I would add that many advertisers sell things to these audiences. My primary client sells a great many things to low-income people. This is one of those cases where incompetence is definitely a much more reasonable explanation than conspiracy.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:52 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The extra bandwidth was actually sold in auctions in 2008. The government took in roughly $20 billion dollars.

Ah ha--so that's probably why it was included in a deficit reduction bill.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:15 PM on June 16, 2009


This is one of those cases where incompetence is definitely a much more reasonable explanation than conspiracy.
I guess that's comforting.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:25 PM on June 16, 2009


At this time, I'd like to personally thank TiVo for cunningly addicting us to their service, thereby leading us eventually to DirectTV, and saving us from having to deal with this mess.

Also, TheWhiteSkull is right--advertising revenue is GOD for networks and stations. If you're having problems, call your local stations and tell them that you'll start complaining to their advertisers and to their parent networks that you can't get signal and are missing all the advertising they're paying big $$$ for. Once their revenue stream is threatened, they'll listen and fix it.
posted by elfgirl at 12:33 PM on June 16, 2009


I bought a new, digital TV back in December or November, along with a new antenna, etc. Set it all up and happily watched the 15 or so channels that came in on the digital airwaves. Every once in a while (most often right as the detective was about to reveal who killed the victim), the digital signal would drop out completely, leaving me guessing as to who the killer was/why the killer did it. That made me want to hurt someone. No amount of fussing with the antenna fixed that, either.

When the analog signal was cut off on Friday, I lost ten of my channels and haven't gotten them back, despite daily fussing with the antenna and rescanning of channels. I'm not a techno-phobe nor am I an idiot. I've checked the web to determine which direction the signals are supposed to come from and how to get the best reception of them. I'm still not getting those ten channels. (FWIW, I'm in Newark, less than four miles from NYC; my apartment faces NYC and I'm on the top floor with a nearly clear view of the City).

What I have noticed, however, is that with the channels I do receive now, the signal is weaker during the actual show and tends to drop out/freeze up while the *show* is on. During commercials, though, the signal is stronger and doesn't drop out.

I'm frustrated that I've lost ten of my channels, though, in fairness, I only ever watched one of those ten. Still... it shouldn't be this way. I'm with those who think this is a cable/satellite company-inspired conspiracy to force those of us getting 'free tv' to pay up for cable/satellite service.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 1:07 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's a cable/satellite plot (it's a mobile phones plot, duh), but I'll bet the cable and satellite companies are smiling awfully wide.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:18 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know what the trouble is, LOLAttorney2009, but some people might be having problems because they only have a UHF antenna. Some stations use VHF channels, and some stations definitely switched from UHF to VHF last Friday (e.g., WHDH in Boston).
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:24 PM on June 16, 2009


My antenna is supposed to be for both, fwiw.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:25 PM on June 16, 2009


Also, LOLAttornety2009, if you're sure that they're boosting the signal during commercials, you might want to inform some local DTV technical enthusiasts, who might have the equipment to document this and raise a stink that could make them cut that out. If they're only boosting the signal during *local* commercials, that might get them in trouble with their networks.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:30 PM on June 16, 2009


The antenna I bought in November/December is an indoor UHF, VHF and FM made by Panasonic. I researched it before I bought it; it's a mid-range product and should be sufficient for where I am in relation to the broadcasting points.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 1:31 PM on June 16, 2009


St. Alia of the Bunnies, an outdoor antenna would be best. But if you have an attic and can put an antenna in there (and don't have aluminum siding or other metallic obstructions), it might work about as well, and you'll save the installation costs. Also, if you need an antenna rotator, you can get away with a cheaper one that doesn't have to withstand much wind loading.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:45 PM on June 16, 2009


> What I have noticed, however, is that with the channels I do receive now, the signal is weaker during the actual show and tends to drop out/freeze up while the *show* is on. During commercials, though, the signal is stronger and doesn't drop out.

That's tinfoil hat stuff. First, it's a technical pain in the ass to alter transmit power dynamically. Next, there's not a significant savings in power for doing so.

But mainly because if people couldn't reliably watch the program, they wouldn't be around to watch the commercials now, would they...

But if your DTV converter has a signal strength meter (our tivax does), you can confirm yourself whether they are indeed changing the power significantly.
posted by Artful Codger at 1:46 PM on June 16, 2009


We lost one channel and gained a different one in the transition. It just totally disappeared on Friday and no amount of scanning will bring it back. We've been watching almost exlusively digital transmissions for about 30 months now. We're in a semi-remote location, and unable to use an outdoor antenna(live on the first floor of a multi-family dwelling), so reception can be spotty sometimes regardless of the channel.

The thing that sucks is that the channel we lost is one of the few(4 - 5 out of over 20) that we would occasionally actually watch, when not using the XBOX or dvd player.
posted by owtytrof at 2:03 PM on June 16, 2009


"unable to use an outdoor antenna(live on the first floor of a multi-family dwelling),"

There are antennas that fit within the FCC mandated Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule. No one can stop you from installing these devices if you have an exclusive control area in which to mount it.
posted by Mitheral at 2:11 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Getting cable would be about 50.00 a month here, so even though we can no longer get ABC or CBS, it's not worth switching to cable...in some ways it's been a blessing that watching TV is kind of a PITA anymore, because we do other stuff instead.

The whole "get them on cable!" plot (which I totally believe) might have worked better if this weren't happening smack dab in the middle of a recession. If Time Warner wants me to hook up my TV, they're going to have to bring those prices down.
posted by emjaybee at 2:17 PM on June 16, 2009


The original date for complete signal transition to digital was end of year 2006. Pushed back to Feb 17th, 2009 (22months), then again to June 12th (4 more months).

The real question here is: Just how much time would be necessary to ensure everybody is warm and fuzzy and to totally avoid inconvenience for those still having trouble after a 2.5 year delay?

Answer: There is not enough time in the world to satisfy everyone, but now I'd bet those that still want to watch TV will figure out how to join the rest of us - Hell, I'll even continue to help (BONUS!!: I also set the correct time on their VCRs while I'm at it).

Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 (54.5KB pdf)

SEC. 3002. ANALOG SPECTRUM RECOVERY: FIRM DEADLINE.
(a) Amendments.--Section 309(j)(14) of the Communications Act of
1934 (47 U.S.C. 309(j)(14)) is amended--
(1) in subparagraph (A)--
(A) by inserting ``full-power'' before ``television broadcast
license''; and
(B) by striking ``December 31, 2006'' and inserting ``February 17,
2009'';
(2) by striking subparagraph (B);
(3) in subparagraph (C)(i)(I), by striking ``or (B)'';
(4) in subparagraph (D), by striking ``subparagraph (C)(i)'' and
inserting ``subparagraph (B)(i)''; and
(5) by redesignating subparagraphs (C) and (D) as subparagraphs
(B) and (C), respectively.
(b) Terminations of Analog Licenses and Broadcasting.--The Federal
Communications Commission shall take such actions as are necessary-
-
(1) to terminate all licenses for full-power television stations in the
analog television service, and to require the cessation of broadcasting
by full-power stations in the analog television service, by February 18,
2009; and
(2) to require by February 18, 2009, that all broadcasting by Class
A stations, whether in the analog television service or digital television
service, and all broadcasting by full-power stations in the digital
television service, occur only on channels between channels 2 and 36,
inclusive, or 38 and 51, inclusive (between frequencies 54 and 698
posted by HyperBlue at 2:21 PM on June 16, 2009


Maybe the real question is why any consumer of television would want to change the broadcast standard at all? As we can see, there are a lot of disadvantages. But what's the real advantage? Picture quality? Over and over again, it's been made clear that most people don't give a damn about picture quality. NTSC is "good enough". And by the way, both cable and, especially, satellite TV compress the hell out of the signal. (Yes, you can take a compressed digital TV signal and compress it some more.) You're probably not getting the picture quality you think you are. (Although over-the-air broadcast quality is generally better.) No, the motivation for this doesn't come from consumers. And as for spectrum, there's a heck of a lot of spectrum up in the GHz ranges. Maybe the allocations there could be changed. I know this is a done deal. But I don't see any justification for berating consumers for dragging their feet.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:01 PM on June 16, 2009


I'm a consumer and I love my HD.
posted by smackfu at 3:32 PM on June 16, 2009


You can have my HD when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. Fast forwarding 5 years, you can have my $99 11.5x8 inch, 6 oz, color e-paper, super-fast, voice activated, video conferencing internet tablet that runs on the spectrum given up by the broadcasters and has nearly perfect coverage pretty much everywhere when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

They're not making more spectrum. People will always have problems and scream with any transition. I'm sure there were plenty of people who would have complained when television came to town and they couldn't get as perfect reception as the billion watt mexican radio stations, too.

Everything will work out, people will manage, there will be a new normal. We had a tornado here the other night during one of the games of the NBA finals, so they put the game fullscreen on a secondary channel and put the weather guy full screen on the primary channel. This is the new normal for broadcast television. Oh, and you get an upcoming programming channel guide for free.
posted by jeffkramer at 4:53 PM on June 16, 2009


"why any consumer of television would want to change the broadcast standard at all?"

Because analog TV is incredibly wasteful. Same as how we have taps on our sinks so that the water doesn't just run 24/7.
posted by Mitheral at 4:55 PM on June 16, 2009


"Maybe the real question is why any consumer of television would want to change the broadcast standard at all? As we can see, there are a lot of disadvantages. But what's the real advantage? Picture quality? Over and over again, it's been made clear that most people don't give a damn about picture quality."

Well, now, don't go mixing "any" and "most". I wanted a change in the broadcast standard because HD looks better than SD. I have an HD TV with digital broadcasts now, and am very satisfied with it. So that's why any consumer might want the standard to change. Now, if you're saying most people don't care about picture quality, you should by asking why most consumers of television would want to change the broadcast standard, not why any would.
posted by Bugbread at 5:01 PM on June 16, 2009


bugbread: you're absolutely right, I was careless.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:33 PM on June 16, 2009


What I'm saying is that, in my opinion, it's not clear that this is going to turn out to be a net win overall. I'm sure it will for some people, and for others it won't. So, how much of a win for how many people? Not clear yet.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:11 PM on June 16, 2009


It is totally going to be a net win. People who don't have digital converters will be able to get them, once coupon dollars disappear prices will drop due to the natural progression of technology and the artificial price ceiling created by the coupon target. As people upgrade to newer TVs their used converter boxes will show up at Goodwill. Community centers will give them away. Grandpa will be able to watch Matlock again.

In order for the forest to renew, a fire must spread. Brand new technologies will be invented that take advantage of the fact that the newly available spectrum is so awesome. Technology will progress. Horses gave way to cars, telegraph gave way to telephone, you can hardly get dialup anymore. Change has a cost, but in the end people will not want to go back.

In a year or two Grandpa will be able to choose between Matlock, Judge Judy, Dr. Phil and Andy Griffith, all on the same channel. He may even be able to pick up a $100 'super-easy broadcast DVR' that records his favorite shows to a flash memory drive, has no monthly fee and has a remote with huge buttons that glow in the dark.

This will be better than it was before. It will be better than getting up to switch the channel on the TV. It will be better than only having a 13" black and white set in the living room. It will be better than paying $9.99 a month for one channel of HBO.
posted by jeffkramer at 8:16 PM on June 16, 2009


Where's my flying car?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:50 PM on June 16, 2009


Artful Codger: That's tinfoil hat stuff.

So that's what I need for better reception!
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:26 PM on June 16, 2009


Wow, hello. This post wasn't just for me to vent (okay, it was) about my particular situation. Loads of intelligent, capable people are having this problem, and I'm just pointing out 1) that the government wasn't entirely forthcoming about some of the problems people might face before mandating such a radical change (yes, the radical change only effected some, I know) and 2) they were very content to leave some people in the dust in the search for an illusory sense of 'progress'. It's kind of like some 21st century koan: if you can't see the perfect picture and hear the brilliant sound, does it really exist? I think the thing that bothers me most is that it wasn't made clear how much of a personal investment this could be, and how that investment might not yield any results at all. Sure, it was my (and probably many other people's) decision to buy a new digital-ready set, but I did it because I thought I wouldn't have to fiddle with all the extra components. That it would be easier. As a technophobe (whose technophobia is growing by the day it seems), my main goal was to have as few moments as possible where frustration and fury combine into a terrifying derangement that may or may not have lead to a murderous rampage (that many people would not have learned about on the 10 o'clock news because they couldn't get that channel!). Then again, there are the lucky souls out there who got their converter boxes, hooked it up to their old tv, and, easy peasy, had no problem. I think that's just the luck of the draw.

As far as paying for cable: as frustrating as spending money on a tv that is mostly useless has been, basically the tv cost less than 3 or 4 months of Comcast (only option in this area). But if this was a ruse to force people to switch to cable/satellite, then the words 'free tv' should never have been bandied about and they just should have said, 'We're cable only now, thanks' or whatever. There'd be outrage, but at least you'd know what you're getting.
posted by Mael Oui at 10:18 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The nature of digital broadcast is quite perplexing. Standing next to the converter & antenna, I can SEE THE TOWERS for all the stations in our area and still the interference we get is ridiculous. When it is cloudy all the signals begin to pixelate. When a car drives by the signal drops. We also live near an airport - could the radio signals from it be causing interference?

I write this just to agree with the FP that the digital model was poorly thought out. IN particular, I would argue that it was a huge mistake to combine audio and video. TV is still largely radio with pictures and I think that people would be less bothered by signal problems if the audio could be maintained with a partial signal.

That said, whether it is conspiratorial or not, less TV can only be a good thing. This process has made it seem that TV is akin to water and air for survival!
posted by mouthnoize at 10:56 AM on June 17, 2009


Here's an interesting article about problems with digital TV on the VHF band.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:43 PM on June 23, 2009


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