Thursday, May 31, 2007
This second implication of the transition is what the TV industry is most concerned about, and a recent survey conducted by the Association of Public Television Stations justifies that concern. According to the survey about sixty percent of people in the twenty one million homes who receive TV programming over the air have no idea that the transition will take place. Ten percent said that they had limited awareness of the impending transition, and twenty five percent said that they were somewhat aware to very aware. Twenty five percent is better than nothing.
The government has responded with funding for education, but it's generally agreed by the TV industry that the funding is insufficient. It was also recently revealed that a government program to subsidize the purchase of converter boxes that would allow owners of analog TV sets to watch digital TV programming wouldn't be enough to cover the cost of each set for each household. It's generally agreed that cable TV and satellite TV providers will provide converter boxes to their customers. Actually, all satellite TV programming already is digital, and a lot of cable TV programming is also already digital- the receivers that both companies provide for their customers already function as converter boxes.
While all of this does imply disorganization and impending chaos, it's not a dire as many TV industry analysts suggest. Some analysts have suggested that if the masses wake up on February 17, 2009 and find that they can't watch over the air TV, we can expect to see rioting in the streets, looting of big box electronic stores, and a general apocalyptic breakdown of order. This has been suggested because of the assumption that many of the people who rely on over the air TV are of a lower income and less educated part of the population. While that may be true, the assumption perpetuates a dangerous stereotype of how lower income people with less education will behave. There's also another insight that was recently revealed: many people who rely on over the air TV signals are also frequent public TV watchers. Hardly the type to riot in the streets.
Of course there is an easy solution to all of this: Put the burden of educating the public on the TV stations that broadcast over the air. After all, it is in their best interest that people be informed about the transition. Those TV stations rely on those same people for ratings, and therefore advertising revenue.