At least I get a coupon

Chris Bouneff

Digital TV. So important that we had to have a national effort. We had to come to some agreement as to the format and take legislative action. Then we had to shove a mandate down the throats of consumers -- buy new TVs, buy converters or lose access to free TV over the airwaves.

Then we set up a national program to get folks two coupons of $40 each so they can buy converters for their rabbit ears.

Truly, our nation at its best. When a pressing issue hits, our national government responds and rallies a nation. Let us rejoice as a people.

Energy policy. Not important enough for a national effort. Instead we get ethanol, which isn’t proving the savior its most ardent advocates proclaimed. (But, thankfully, before the effects of expanding ethanol use were studied, we got mandates.) A smattering of wind and solar power. Some lip service to fuel cells. Stronger calls to drill in the arctic. Corporate windfalls for oil companies (which, of course, have no ties to the record speculative price of oil).

Where it’s important enough to get people $40 coupons, it’s a stretch to spend $40 billion on next generation technology research and development to find the stuff that will power the world after oil, just as oil supplanted coal as we entered the 20th century.

We’re told the free market will sort it out. You know, that same free market that left on its own would have never made the jump to digital TV. That same free market that needed a mandate and a national program.

I suppose I should just be happy I got a coupon.

 

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Good column!

    I'm not too happy that my tax dollars are subsidizing people's televisions. That said, I don't want federal policy to penalize people who don't have the money to buy new TVs, or to encourage people to buy new stuff when the old stuff works just fine with a converter.

    Why not fund the subsidy with a tax on new televisions, instead of taxing those of us without televisions? God, that would just open the door to taxing televisions in general, I suppose, which might just make us healthier.

  • Brian (unverified)
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    I feel you Evan, but I'd disagree with your "the old stuff works just fine" line. The old AM transistor radios I had when I was a kid would "work just fine" too. The move from NTSC to digital represents a dramatic technological shift. Once you get used to watching full-on HD broadcast with decent gear, you can't go back. Think dial-up vs. good broadband.

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    I fail to see where the public good is even remotely served by this forced change. Brian mentions dial-up versus broadband. That's a great example because that evolution in technology and access didn't require a government dictate. There are literally hundreds of thousands of similar examples.

    This forced conversion is a world-class scam which penalizes those who can least afford to be penalized, not to mention not having done anything to warrant the penalty in the first place!

    I've seen the spots that OPB has been running for several months now about the upcoming conversion and how to get the converter box coupons. The reality is that the "free" coupons are merely a band-aid and don't even cover half of the TV sets that will either need converters or be added to the ecological nightmare that is America's obsession with disposable plastic crap filling our landfills and oceans. Hell, I'm not even a tree-hugger and even I can see the short-sighted folly in this scam.

    Look, I'm a bit of a techno-geek. I love electronic gadgets as much as the next guy or gal. But that's of my own free choice! I'm not wealthy and I would prefer to maintain some semblence of autonomy over which electronic gadgets I want to indulge what little spare cash I have on.

    What's next? Will we all be forced to subscribe to satellite radio so that our government can auction off the remaining "air" bandwidths to big corporations?

  • Ten Bears (unverified)
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    That's right: force consumers to spend their money>

  • Bill (unverified)
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    It is my understanding that the digital TV mandate has to do with spectrum and bandwidth needs that are being challenged by the explosion in communications and other technology (cell phones, radio).

    I'm no techno wiz or expert on this topic, this is just what I heard. The Feds needed to clear the broadcast TV spectrum to have it available for other uses, and in the movement to cable, it makes sense to go to the latest technology that can carry the most info at the highest speeds.

    Again, this is just what I heard. I may not have the story completely right. I thought I'd pass it along though.

  • Brian (unverified)
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    "Brian mentions dial-up versus broadband. That's a great example because that evolution in technology and access didn't require a government dictate.

    Of course, but that transition had nothing to do with a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum considered to be owned by the public/government. We can have a beef about how our airwaves are auctioned off to telecoms, the costs associated with upgrading to superior technology, etc. The fact remains, it's not that great of a hardship for most of the population. Most folks have some form or cable or satellite TV- they're covered. The few that currently rely on analog, over the air signals need only purchase a relatively inexpensive converter box, which will make their viewing experience better.

    I'm not wealthy either and am considered by many to be a rather frugal old bastard, but I can afford a television and appreciate value. It appears to me that those considered to be the poorest of folks in our society tend to be some of the more early adopters. See it all the time. Live in a cheap apartment with no pot to piss in, but you got a digital television, decent sound system and a somewhat blinged out vehicle parked in your assigned space. Me, I like owning my home, maintaining a simple lifestyle with simple, no-frills, economical vehicles parked in the garage. Wearing sweaters in winter, shorts & T-shirts in summer, shop at Winco, no debt aside from the mortgage payment. However, it is nice to bask in the glow of a nice 60" Plasma HDTV and enjoy the fruits of my labor once in a while. I came late to the party and don't mind looking at my old tube once in a while, but I'm sold on HD. This is coming from the stubborn, yet technically savvy individual who purchased his first cell phone in '07. The poor had me beat on that by 10 years or more. But, I'm rambling, so I digress.

  • ws (unverified)
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    "Brian mentions dial-up versus broadband. That's a great example because that evolution in technology and access didn't require a government dictate." kevin

    Got to pay for that broadband. That's why I don't have it. From what I hear, something like a Magnavox converter box will be $40-$50, making it a very good price with the coupon.

    Fred's (Meyer)has been having displays set up in the Beaverton Town Square store; big screen tv pulling in digital broadcast tv with rabbit ears, and it looks great compared to analog. The employee graciously demonstrated it for me, going back and forth between analog and digital. I don't really understand it, but the digital signal, through the very same rabbit ears was vastly superior. Of course, it wasn't run through the converter box, because it was a digital tv. Wondering what the difference will be.

    Electronics is not a technology that looks like it's going to stand still, at least not for awhile. I'm just glad I won't have to be out more than $10.

  • alan t (unverified)
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    Brian: Going digital does NOT mean high definition.

  • (Show?)

    Actually, ws, I don't have broadband either. I've chosen to go with DSL instead. Largely because I just can't justify paying for cable given the prices and the choices. Although that has as much to do with the fact that I'm a single parent than economics.

  • Ken (unverified)
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    DSL is broadband.

  • Pat Malach (unverified)
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    I like coupons, except when people in front of me in the grocery line don't have their act together and take way too much time paying for their stuff and getting their $.25 off.

    How's it going Bouneff. Long time no see.

  • Brian (unverified)
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    "Brian: Going digital does NOT mean high definition."

    Did I suggest otherwise? Oh, was it this comment? "The few that currently rely on analog, over the air signals need only purchase a relatively inexpensive converter box, which will make their viewing experience better."

    Of course those lacking an HD capable set will not benefit image wise, but just being able to receive digital signals (converted back to NTSC for their analog set) will allow them to access more programming than they could before. Most networks broadcast multiple "channels" with digital.

    I see your point. There is a lot of confusion when the words digital and television come together. A digital signal source does not necessarily mean HD or DTV.

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