The Digital Transition Arrives

The networks finally turned off their analog over-the-air transmitters on Friday, after innumerable delays over a 13-year period. The FCC says that everything went well, but other reports indicated that they fielded 800,000 calls over the weekend, presumably from folks who weren’t prepared or weren’t getting a signal. That doesn’t sound like a smooth switch to me, but the only people who’ll tell you about it want you to think it went well. Very few people who work in government or media get their TV over the air anymore, so the subject tends to get short shrift in many circles.

Meanwhile we’re in the worst economic crisis since the great depression and lobbying interests still seem to control our government in the areas that most need change — banking, health care and energy. That’s because campaigns cost so much and most of the money comes from the business interests who fund those lobbyists.

How is this connected to digital TV? The networks got five times the bandwidth from the FCC for no charge. They could have thrown in some free airtime for campaign ads, but of course that would have cut into their bottom lines. Congress could have insisted on a better deal, but the subject was barely debated.

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