portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

media criticism

The Death of Accessible Television

"DTV Day" - February 17, 2009 - sounds like a good time to give up television entirely.
Without sounding like a complete Luddite, IMO mainstream television has been going progressively downhill for some time. Internet service providers diss dial-up subscribers, folks with land lines and regular network television viewers, pushing packages that incorporate broadband/cable/cellphones . . . even the candidates and parties holding debates seem to do so only on cable or streaming internet so that the poor and least able cannot easily view them. Instead, we get a constant lineup of "reality" shows, Inside Edition, 20/20 which has devolved into sensationalism and a very few interesting series slanted toward the paranormal, hospital and law enforcement.

Now that the government has decided to sell the public's analog access to the highest bidder and force us into either buying $60+ digital converters or new high definition television, we're looking are more expense and red tape just to watch the same dreck in higher resolution.

As far as I am concerned, I won't be watching televison after "DTV Day". I don't watch it much as it is. I was unhappy to hear that DVDs will also be converted to the new high definition and DVD players will also require some kind of upgrade to play them. I haven't heard about whether playing these new DVDs on a computer will be a problem.

Supposedly the United States government has set up a special Web site with lots of information about the mandated transition to digital television. Because each analog television will require a converter box to receive the new digital signals, the feds claim to have a program in place to allow low income people to buy the converter boxes at a discounted price. There's a single telephone number which should be about as easy to get through on as the number the IRS gives out each year that is supposed to help people prepare their taxes. Since only low income people will be eligible for the discount coupons, they will have to apply in some way and show that they qualify. More paperwork, more expense, more humiliation, more waiting.

I can see several groups doing a land office business before "DTV Day": the folks selling the adaptors and the new TVS, their stockholders and the service people who will be busy installing the adaptors and the sophisticated sets because John or Jane Q. Public will not be able to do so him (or her) self. And the cable or satellite businesses.

The junk yards will also be dealing with mountains of abandoned television sets.

"Oh," you say, "I already have a high definition set. No problems, right?" DTV is not necessarily the same as HD-TV.

HD-TV is high definition television. HD-TV is an enhanced version of DTV. Not all digital television signals will be in high definition formats. Because of this, you may still need to subscribe to a high definition service through your cable or satellite provider, which may require the use of a High definition cable or satellite box. The following is a summary of the different types of digital television transmissions. Standard and enhanced digital television are not high definition.

Why not allow the transmission of both analog and digital television signals? The answer to this is the reason that the government has placed a deadline on the conversion of the signals and insists upon a mandatory change. The government expects to pull in billions of dollars in revenue when it auctions off the old analog frequencies. In fact, this anticipated revenue is a factor in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 and will be applied toward that goal.

So, if you have been thinking about showing your television with its surplus of junk food programming, pharmaceutical commercials and bad journalism, consider bidding your television, "Goodbye" on DTV DAY. Read books, write, take a walk, spend time with friends and family, meet your neighbors, reach out to the world around you in a personal way.

To me, DTV Day is "Dead TV Day."

Absolutely! 14.Dec.2007 20:42

.

They are deliberately creating millions of tons of solid waste, complete with the incumbent mercury and other heavy metals problems, all so that we can see the same old dribble in high def? Don't go there, folks. Keep your old lava lamp, and hook it up to your old dvd or vhs player, and watch ol time stuff, or nothing at all. Use it to create psychedelic lighting in your living room. Use it to play pong on, only just don't let them talk you into planking out another half grand or more to watch Earl re runs, or survivor las vegas, or two misogynist assholes and a boy. All of those new sets will probably all be loaded with some kind of Homeland Security bugs, anyway.

On PBS this evening . . . 14.Dec.2007 21:23

North Portlander

The worst part of public televison's "report" on DTV Day, which occurred on the McNeil Lehrer Report, was the fussing about appearance. Nothing was said about content except that it would remain the same. There were numerous shots of crews tearing down the old set not only because it needed to be resized for the new format, but because (as one person interviewed said) there were some scratches and flaws in the old set that viewers would notice in digital transmissions! The scene cut to a makeup artist applying foundation to the face of one of the folks on the shw and comments were made that the makeup would now have to be perfect because every pore and flaw would be visible to viewers. PLEASE! I do not give a tin shit if there's a scratch on the set or someone's toupee is crooked. I listen to program like this for the content and as long as the set is not falling down around the ears of the panel and none of the participants is roaring drunk, hallucinating or taking off his or her clothes, I don't care about the cosmetic issues. In fact, I'd just as soon hear the discussion on the radio! And all this in an era when public broadcasting is madly fundraising and bemoaning the lack of financial support by anyone but individuals and private sponsors.

sources? 14.Dec.2007 21:29

nyx

Do you have sources for this article?

Sources 14.Dec.2007 21:39

North Portlander

Tech Evangelist:
 http://www.tech-evangelist.com/2007/04/29/digital-television-day/

PBS:
 http://www.pbs.org/digitaltv/

US Government:
 http://www.dtv.gov/

Point of interest - the UK is also in the process of going digital:
 link to 209.85.173.104

"Market Transformation Programme Report Title: Disposal of TV equipment: possible impact of digital switchover January 2007

"In September 2005, the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, announced the go-ahead for the switch to digital-only television in the UK. Under the 'digital switchover' policy, the UK will move to digital television and the analogue terrestrial signals will be switched off ITV region by ITV region between 2008 and 2012. Digital switchover policy is the responsibility of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)."

All the Propaganda That's Fit to Air!! 15.Dec.2007 14:49

NotFooledForAMinute

It is complete subterfuge! "Deficit reduction" is a ruse...just stop spending $1 billion a week on an illegal war, or two and you'd have deficit reduction.

NTIA is about controlling the airwaves. The coupon program is a crock...notice that it provides one $40 coupon per household. Anything initiated by the GOP is suspect for corporatist/fascist motives, and this is a prime example. Look at the propaganda effort, and who the players are, and defeat NTIA!!

Notice that the transition date is 2/17/2009, a month after a new President should be inaugurated...Bush will only leave the White House in a straightjacket!

A Legacy of Toxic Junk 15.Dec.2007 19:16

Framboise

Along with the added cost of purchasing new equipment is the price the environment will pay from trashing the old television sets. Some progressive states, such as Minnesota, have placed an outright ban on putting TV sets into household trash dumps. Television sets produce a steady stream of X-rays so the glass on traditional sets includes lead, which can be poisonous if it seeps into the groundwater below a landfill. A computer monitor has around 2 to 4 pounds of lead in it while a mid-size television set can have 10 to 20 pounds of lead. The safest way is for the television to be deconstructed and recycled so the hazardous lead-containing parts are safely disposed. Organizations such as the GrassRoots Recycling Network are trying convince states to invest in safe disposal and recycling of electronics. However, many states do not yet understand just how many TV sets will soon be considered "door-stops" by the public.

Here is a Gov. description of NTIA 16.Dec.2007 15:50

StopTheMarchtoFascism

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
National Telecommunications and Information Administration

47 C.F.R. 301
Rules to Implement and Administer
a Coupon Program for
Digital-to-Analog Converter Boxes

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Heading
Background
Discussion
A. Eligible U.S. Households
B. Coupon Value and Use Restrictions
C. Application Process
D. Coupon Expiration
E. Coupon-Eligible Converter Box
F. Manufacturer Certification
G. Retailer Participation
H. Consumer Education
Procedural Matters


AGENCY: National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Commerce PART 301 Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program
ACTION: Final Rule Technical Appendices


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For the reasons set forth in the preamble, NTIA adds 47 C.F.R. Part 301, which is currently reserved, with the following:


PART 301 DIGITAL-TO-ANALOG CONVERTER BOX COUPON PROGRAM

301.1 Program Purposes

301.2 Definitions

301.3 Household Eligibility and Application Process

301.4 Coupons

301.5 Manufacturers' Technical Approval Process

301.6 Retailer Participation

Technical Appendix 1

Technical Appendix 2



AUTHORITY: Title III of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-171, 120 Stat. 4, 21 (Feb. 8, 2006) (the "Act").



301.1 Program Purposes.



Pursuant to section 3005 of the Act, (The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005), the purpose of the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program is to provide $40 coupons that can be applied towards the purchase price of eligible digital-to-analog converter boxes. After February 17, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission will require that all full-power television stations in the United States broadcast using digital television technology. Consumers who wish to continue to receive local broadcast television programming over-the-air using analog televisions not connected to cable or satellite service may wish to purchase digital-to-analog converter boxes in order to do so.



301.2 Definitions.



"Act" means Title III of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-171, 120 Stat. 4, 21 (Feb. 8, 2006).

"Agency" means the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the United States Department of Commerce or its contractor.

"Certified Retailer" means a seller of Coupon-Eligible Converter Boxes directly to consumers that has met the requirements for certification and has been identified by NTIA as certified to redeem coupons.

"Contingent Funds" means those funds referenced in Section 3005(c)(3) of the Act.

"Coupon" means a voucher provided by the Agency to Eligible Households which only may be used to purchase a Coupon-Eligible Converter Box from a Certified Retailer.

"Coupon-Eligible Converter Box" (CECB) means a stand-alone device that does not contain features or functions except those necessary to enable a consumer to convert any channel broadcast in the digital television service into a format that the consumer can display on a television receiver designed to receive and display signals only in the analog television service. CECBs may also include remote control devices. CECBs must have the features required by, and meet the technical performance specifications listed in Technical Appendix 1.

"Department" means the United States Department of Commerce.

"Eligible Household" means those Households in the United States and its territories that make a valid request for a coupon pursuant to Rule 301.3 within the time period specified by NTIA, but no later than March 31, 2009.

"FCC" means the Federal Communications Commission.

"State" includes each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

"Household" consists of all persons who currently occupy a house, apartment, mobile home, group of rooms, or single room that is occupied as separate living quarters and has a separate U.S. Postal address. A household does not mean a Post Office Box.





301.3 Household Eligibility and Application Process.



(a) To apply for and receive a coupon, an Eligible Household must:

(1) provide the name of the person submitting the request

(2) provide a United States Postal Service mailing address

(A) a Post Office Box will not be considered a valid mailing address unless (2)(B) applies

(B) residents of Indian reservations, Alaskan Native Villages and other rural areas without home postal delivery may be requested to supply additional information to identify the physical location of the household, as required.

(3) indicate the number of coupons requested, but no more than two coupons.

(b) As of January 1, 2008, requests for coupons may be submitted by mail, telephone or the Internet on forms provided by the Agency.

(c) Requests for coupons must be submitted to the Agency no later than March 31, 2009.

(d) Once Contingent Funds are available for the Coupon Program, only over-the-air households will be eligible. During the period in which Contingent Funds are available, households must certify that they do not receive cable, satellite, or other pay televison service.

(e) If an applicant does not meet the above eligibility requirements, the request will be denied.




301.4 Coupons



(a) The coupon value will be $40 or the price of the CECB, whichever is less.

(b) Each Eligible Household will be limited to a total of two coupons.

(c) Two coupons may not be used in combination toward the purchase of a single CECB.

(d) Coupons will be sent to Eligible Households via the United States Postal Service.

(e) Coupons will expire 90 days after the issuance date. Issuance date means the date upon which the coupon is placed with the United States Postal Service.

(f) Consumers may not return a CECB to a retailer for a cash refund for the coupon amount or make an exchange for another item unless it is another CECB.

(g) The coupon has no cash value. It shall be illegal to sell, duplicate or tamper with the coupon.





301.5 Manufacturers' Technical Approval Process



(a) Manufacturers wishing to participate in the coupon program must submit a notice of intent to NTIA at least three months prior to submitting test results and sample models of converter boxes. Notices should be sent to DTV Converter Coupon Program, NTIA/OTIA, U.S. Department of Commerce, Room 4809, Washington, DC 20230, Fax Number 202-482-4626 and provide the name, title, address, and phone number of an individual responsible for the manufacturer's submission. The notice shall also include a brief description of the proposed converter box, including permitted as well as required features, and the date which the proposed converter box is expected to be available for testing.

(b) NTIA shall treat the notices of intent received as business confidential and proprietary information and will not release information from the notices of intent to the public unless otherwise required by law.

(c) The manufacturer will supply two production sample converter boxes to NTIA. NTIA will provide the manufacturer with mailing information in a letter of acknowledgment after NTIA receives the notice of intent.

(d) Each model proposed to be a CECB shall meet the performance specification and features set forth in Technical Appendix 1 of this Section. Each model proposed may also include "permitted" features set forth in Technical Appendix 2, but shall not include "disqualifying" features set forth therein.

(e ) NTIA may issue other guidance or test-bed conditions and it is the manufacturer's responsibility to conduct tests pursuant to any guidance so provided. A manufacturer shall conduct its own tests or have a qualified independent third party conduct the tests.

(f) Reports of test conditions and test results must be clear and comprehensive so that they can be easily interpreted by NTIA and others reviewing them. The FCC may test converter boxes, if requested by NTIA.

(g) Test results shall be submitted to NTIA along with a certification of the testing supervisor as to their authenticity, completeness and accuracy based on personal knowledge.

(h) NTIA will provide prompt notice to the individual submitting test results whether the

model has met technical approval and is or is not a CECB. NTIA will base its decision whether to approve each converter box upon consultation with the FCC.

(i) A list of CECBs, including make and model number, will be maintained by NTIA and regularly distributed to participating retailers for use in electronic Point-of-Sale (POS) systems.

(j) It is the responsibility of the manufacturers to resolve any performance or product defect issues with consumers and retailers.

(k) NTIA shall not warrant the performance, suitability, or usefulness of any CECB for any use.



301.6 Retailer Participation




Retailer participation is voluntary. NTIA encourages retailers to participate in the Coupon Program and to cooperate with NTIA and its contractor in the administration of an effective and efficient program resulting in high customer satisfaction with a minimum of waste, fraud and abuse.

(a) Retailer Obligations: Certified Retailers are required to redeem valid coupons toward the purchase of CECBs, and

(1) Must have systems in place that are capable of electronically processing coupons for redemption and payment, tracking each and every transaction, and generating reports that are easily auditable.

(2) Must train employees on the purpose and operation of the Coupon Program. NTIA or its contractor will provide training material.

(3) Will not be responsible for checking consumer or household eligibility but shall report to NTIA suspicious patterns of customer behavior.

(4) Use commercially reasonable methods to order and manage inventory to meet customer demand for CECBs.

(5) Must provide transaction reports based on NTIA's requirements. Reports must be maintained by the retailer for at least one year. Business confidential and proprietary information shall not be disclosed to the public unless otherwise required by law.

(b) Retailer Certification:

(1) Retailers seeking to participate in the Coupon Program must apply for certification by contacting NTIA between June 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008.

(2) Retailers must complete the form provided by the Agency which requires the retailers to self certify that they:

(A) Have been engaged in the consumer electronics retail business for at least one year unless waived for good cause by NTIA. Good cause will be determined upon a showing by the retailer that participation would be in the best interest of the program. NTIA will issue a written determination as to whether a retailer has made a sufficient showing of good cause to waive this requirement;

(B)Have completed a Central Contractor Registration (www.ccr.gov);

(C) Have in place systems or procedures that can be easily audited as well as systems that can provide adequate data to minimize fraud and abuse in retail redemption and government payment for coupons;

(D) Agree to have coupon box sales audited at any time during the term of participation in the coupon program by the U.S. Government or an independent auditor at no expense to the retailer;

(E) Will provide NTIA electronically with redemption information and payment receipts related to coupons used in the purchase of converter boxes, specifically tracking each serialized coupon by number with a corresponding CECB purchase; and

(F) Agree only to accept coupons for, and receive payment resulting from authorized purchases made for CECBs.

(3) Retailer Certification may be revoked by NTIA if a Certified Retailer fails to comply with these regulations, with the terms of any agreement made between the Certified Retailer and NTIA, or for other actions inconsistent with the Coupon Program.

(4) NTIA will not revoke retailer certification for unintentional non-compliance or error.

(5) Retailers may contact NTIA for late application or dispute resolution for problems such as denial or revocation of certification. Such issues will be resolved on a case-by-case basis.