Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why June 12 Has Held

With the only reported reaction to the May 21st national soft test of unconverted stations having been a one-day spike in FCC hotline calls (between three and four times as many as on a usual day), it's pretty clear that there is just about zero chance of the analog shutdown being delayed past the current date of June 12. The inevitable confusion and anger over reception loss (which I think will be a bigger problem than any remaining lack of awareness) will just have to be lived through until technological fixes (signal repeaters, power boosts) come through and/or people make the necessary adjustments in their behavior (going cable/satellite, getting their shows online, investing in a better antenna, giving up TV altogether).

When the original delay happened, I read many comments (both in board posts and in the comment sections attached to articles) from people who were convinced that we would have the same situation to deal with now that we did back in February. But things did not work out that way, and here are some reasons why.

1) INCREASED READINESS - During the debate a few months ago over the original February-to-June delay, it was commonplace to hear people state that those who were not prepared after all this time would surely be just as unprepared on June 12. This struck me a strange argument at the time, seeing as how there were several million people on the waiting list for converter boxes at the time. These people had taken action, they were just a bit late. And in the last few months, the DTV-unreadiness figures being released on a regular basis by the Neilsen rating people have borne that out. As the waiting list has cleared out, the percentage of households deemed unready for the transition has dropped from February's 5+ million households to the May 13 figure of 3.3 million. However, as the figures in this Neilsen press release show, progress has slowed recently and we appear to be getting down to the true hard core of unreachables who may not be willing to do anything until they absolutely have to.

2) LACK OF POLITICAL WILL - Though there have never been any truly grass-roots organized protests against the transition, many in Congress have previously voiced concerns on their constituents' behalf, concerns which culminated in the February delay. However, that delay required bipartisan cooperation to pass the Senate, and the support of Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was key. But Sen. Hutchinson made clear back in March that once was enough and that she would not be on board this time. Perhaps that's one reason why no one else in Congress (at least that I've read about) is willing to entertain an idea that would be fairly certain to go down in flames.

3) EARLY TERMINATIONS - One of the things that has helped lessen the fear of a total shutdown is the lack of any truly serious disruptions from the terminations we've already had, terminations which have already removed more than a third of American stations from the analog ranks. As I pointed out in my last post there have been a number of articles about large numbers of calls to various hotlines when stations transition, but little reporting about continuing problems in the weeks and months after. That's not to say that there aren't any, but apparently these don't rise to the level that would give serious pause to our lawmakers.

So it appears that we will find out soon if the large urban centers (which have been mostly spared in the early-termination process) will present larger problems than we've seen so far.


At 7:43 AM, Anonymous Imee said...

I heard that only a little over 2% of the nation is fully unprepared for the DTV switch, so I think June 12 really is a go.

At 3:40 AM, Anonymous Janna said...

I don't think it's every at all possible for the nation to be 100% ready. People are either lazy, lacking funds, or just really don't care. I say go through with the June 12 switch--we've delayed it enough already.


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