The Digital Television Delay Debate

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Engadget, along with many other outlets, have been keeping up with the news about the now officially delayed transition to digital television.  The arguments for delaying by the Obama administration and most democrats are that nearly 6.5 million people don’t have the equipment ready for the transition.  Worse yet, those people are estimated to be made up primarily of the elderly and poor, those least able to make the switch without a digital converter box (by simply buying or owning new TV).  The argument against postponement, champion mostly by FCC chairmen Kevin Martin and (people on the Internet who are ready for it), are that by trying to help those confused by the transition by suddenly switching the dates of transition after months of advertising telling them about the transition, that they’ll just end up even more confused.

I would really have liked the transition to have occurred on time so all those frequencies freed up by the transition can be put to better use.  I think the Obama administration, in a less turbulent times, could have concentrated on a quicker and more hassle free way of solving the problem, if not for their being wars and a recession. One thing I don’t think is being talked about though by those against postponement is advertising.

If we were to go ahead and cut off as many as 6.5 million people from perhaps their only source of current events, we would also be cutting them off from advertisers.  I wouldn’t want to be an advertiser right now trying to sell an add targeted at the elderly know a sizable chunk of the audience couldn’t be watching the ad.  My journalism professor once said that those companies that continue to advertise even in poor economic climates do well, if by no other token than their being less advertising from competitors to… well… compete with.  Accounting for this and the fact that most companies are going to be a little more scrupulous, letting all that advertising go to waste would be a bad idea.

In a year, none of this will really matter (at least I hope).  Until then, I think those throwing all of blame at the Obama administration for a botched transition that was in development for years before he came to office (or was even a Senator!) isn’t as nuanced a response as this development deserves.  Maybe the geniuses over at the Freakonomics blog can figure out the best solution.

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One Response to The Digital Television Delay Debate

  1. Matt Hanson says:

    Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

    Matt Hanson

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