TV industry expert, A. GEEK, chats with consumer ROBERT HANROTT about the changeover:
GEEK: TV stations will shortly stop broadcasting in analog and switch to digital TV signals. The freed-up analog band widths will be used for other purposes.
HANROTT: Such as?
GEEK: Allowing police patrolmen to arrange meetings over the air with their pals at the local SevenEleven or to chat up female police persons on patrol. This way the government keeps you safe from attack.
HANROTT: Is it just for the security services?
GEEK: No, other commercial interests bought freed-up frequencies. The Government made $20 billion on the sales.
HANROTT: Glad to hear it. Usually they are subsidizing private corporations.
GEEK: Yes, the good news is that it financed a whole week of the Iraq war. That is, unless they lost the money, like the other missing millions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just vanished, Pouff!
HANROTT: What are the advantages to the consumer?
GEEK: The official explanation is that digital TV offers you a better picture and clearer sound with less static and interference.
HANROTT: And the unofficial explanation?
GEEK: It’s really part of the stimulus package to restore the economy. Imagine. One and a half million people being forced to buy new T.Vs because they can’t understand the instructions that come with the converter box.................. Mind you, you might also get more channels.
HANROTT: That isn’t clear. My converter box has only found the same 9 channels we had before, plus 2 Latino channels featuring pretty girls. But what I expected was more movie channels, the History Channel, Discovery Channel, BBC America and so on.
GEEK: Those are cable channels. You think cable TV is some sort of charity?
HANROTT: You get several cable-type channels on digital TV in Britain.
GEEK: That’s why the American economy is doing better than the British.
HANROTT: I just hoped for more choice. But at least the Government subsidizes the converter boxes.
GEEK: No, you subsidize the cost of the converter boxes. You pay taxes, don’t you? The TV stations are home free, making money from ads, and you are stuck with making it possible with subsidies. It’s the media empires that ought to be subsidizing the boxes.
HANROTT: So, basically you are saying the money I spent at Best Buy and the three hours I spent trying to get the system going were part of a scam. We mainly watch channel 26 and the improvement in the picture is marginal. So what have I gained?
GEEK: You consumers, so trusting! You see, commercial interests wanted greater bandwidth. A compliant government said “no problem” and the consumer was stuck with the chore and expense of either buying a new digital TV or fiddling around with a converter box.
HANROTT: Talking of new TVs, a year ago I bought a Sony 34 ″ KLV-S32A10 color TV in preparation for the changeover. The salesman never told me it was a non-digital TV.
GEEK: There you have it. Buyer beware! When you unpacked the TV did you check the operating instructions to see if the word “digital” was in the index? No? Well, it isn’t the salesman’s job to explain the product’s capabilities. You should have waded through the 66 pages of technical descriptions and spotted the problems. Free enterprise isn’t free, you know.
HANROTT: These instruction manuals are written by, by.......geeks. It might explain why people seldom read them. Yesterday I connected the wires (I hope) correctly between the converter box and the TV and scanned for the new digital channels. But today I couldn’t get any digital channels at all and the flipper that comes with the converter box didn’t work.
GEEK: Ah, this is something they don’t make clear.
HANROTT: The instructions say in tiny print: Note: If you connected the TV to the To TV (RF) jack, the TV must be tuned to channel 3. Otherwise, you will not see a picture. What does “RF” mean. I have an MBA and my wife has a PhD and it took half an hour to work out that you have to get channel 3 using the old remote.
GEEK: You think you’ve seen the last of that old remote. Not at all. First you have to take the said old remote asnd press 3 on it for Channel 3. Only then can you use the new remote control to get the new digital channels. Of course, you could try re-programming the old remote.
HANROTT: I realize these modern gizmos can do almost everything - - boil an egg, do the grocery shopping, phone for a pizza - -but the reality is that we are all stressed out with modern life and you want me to undertake yet another hi-tech procedure that will make me anxious, bad tempered and shout at my wife?
GEEK: No problem. You just have to know what part of the 66 page instruction booklet to look at........
HANROTT: .......then find a technical dictionary to understand how to make the change. Then find four hours free time. So what is the bottom line? What would you have done? Would you have bought the converter and fiddled with it for hours?
GEEK: No, I would have stimulated the economy.