A Converter Box Might Not Save You (Bye Bye TV)

Turn off your TV!
Image: Urban Media

[In the US, TV stations will make the switch this June to a digital signal, which will cause older TV sets to go dark. UPDATE: The new DTV switch date has been pushed back to June 09.]

Just as I was coming up with gift predictions that would include digital TV converter boxes a somewhat dire revelation occurred. It all started with a report by FOX News' Brett Larson which I was only half listening to at the time. More on that later.

As I was looking over the instructions to help someone install a converter box given as a gift I was amazed at how easy everything was. A few simple connections and the TV was ready to be turned on and the box programmed. This too went relatively quickly and easily. It wasn't until we needed to search for channels that all of the problems started along with the realisations.

"The TV will go dark this February and there isn't much that can be done about it."

That's when the seemingly ambiguous words of Mr. Larson came streaming back into my mind. A quick snippet that made no sense when they were relaid because it was hard to understand the context now became crystal clear. If you have poor TV reception chances are your TV will still go dark even with a converter box because digital TV waves do not reach as far as analog airwaves do or something to that effect.

The TV and most people in the area where the TV is located gets rather poor reception despite using heavy duty roof mounted antennas. This being the case their TV will go dark this February and there isn't much that can be done about it unless they spend even more money. The media conglomerates &/or government would have to put up more towers and who knows if that will ever take, especially with more pressing problems on every ones plate. Most people in the area already have cable but what about people who couldn't afford this added expense?

A recent study showed that the elderly and the disadvantaged in the US still either do not know about the change or haven't been able to acquire a box or the $40. coupon being handed out for the purchase of a converter box. A converter box that may actually do nothing to help the situation. This means an unknown mass of people are going to find their TV pastime disconnected quite possibly for good.

"Test your converter box now, do not wait until the change is in effect. If it isn't working now it won't work then either."

So what to do? The best thing is to ask before buying a converter box. If the person has poor reception or even moderately good but temperamental reception a converter box might not end up working at all. If it fails to they'll be forced to pay for some sort of service. On the other hand this might be a good time to learn or invest in a computer where they can watch the news and shows online. I couldn't help but ponder the following:

- The writers strike was bad but what about the mass outage of TV service that seems to loom off in the distance? Will it mean mass TV show die off as well?

- Will this cause a major surge in the use of the Internet in place of TV?

- Will people start to look for more social ways of entertainment and start to abandon TV altogether?

- Will the TV be the horse and buggy or trolley system as something brand new comes into play?

- What will become of PBS?

This very well may be the sleeper social change no one saw coming.

For more information on the US switch and to request a converter box coupon visit: dtv2009.gov.

Maybe it's better this way? In this news piece researchers find that, Unhappy People Watch A Lot More TV. Also read this NYC article on how people are saying, Goodbye TV, hello laptop--watching tv shows online. UPDATE: US Congress Push DTV Switch Back To June 2009 [Yahoo! News]


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