So, now FCC Chairman Powell

  • So, now FCC Chairman Powell is putting on his regulator’s hat, with the Commission deciding today — with a 3 to 1 vote — to require that all TVs 36″ and bigger be digital capable by Spring 2004. I don’t know that I can hail this as a good thing, since the whole digital TV transition has been, from start to finish, a debacle of clashing industry interests with nary a real concern for the actual public interest ever expressed nor found. The electronics industry has been reticent to include digital tuners since there are so few digital TV signals on the air. The broadcast TV industry’s been dragging its feet in putting digital signals on the air because it’s expensive, and because there aren’t many receivers. It’s a chicken and egg thing, only where the egg keeps spitting in the chicken’s face. Never mind the fact that citizens might just not want to buy a new goddamn TV so they can see Jay Leno’s ugly mug bigger and with more detail.

    But the broadcasters have been operating under a direct federal mandate to switch over right now, and thus, from a regulatory point of view, a disadvantage compared to the electronics industry, which otherwise had until 2010 to switch over. Of course, the electronics industry would have every incentive to delay wide availability of digital-capable TVs, so that when the crunch finally happened the industry could price gouge, while floating the excuse of a supply problem (“gosh, we just can’t keep up with the demand that we’ve known about for 10 goddamn years!”). I hope at least this accelerated deadline for the electronics industry will mean I won’t have to pay out the ass for my new digital set in 2010.

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