Looking around for the last few days, it is hard to escape the news that the digital transition for television broadcasting will take place in the next 18 hours, if, in your area, it has not already done so.

I realize there are lots of stupid people in the world. You could say I am acutely aware, as I get upset dealing with all the inane blatherings and actions of people around me. I always try to be patient, but it is not always easy.

As much as stupidity bothers me, treatment of others as stupid, by people or entities refusing to acknowledge that complete information is not possible, and treating as though it was easily obtained is much worse.

Such is the way the transition is being handled. While the news of its occurrence is omnipresent, the actual nuts an bolts are scattered about, and some of the package has been lost during the opening.

Everyone above the level of cretin is aware that a converter, or television with an ATSC tuner, is needed; our house has had the appropriate converters for over a year.  Far from being ready, with just a converter, the user is only partially prepared, as an antenna change might also be needed – something only brought out in the last 3-4 months in the greater Los Angeles area, where I live.

Since this information was available to the sham we call the FCC, and the various other agencies that concern themselves with the transition, should the word have not been put out, in detail, long, long ago?

Only recently, as in the last 3 months, has the information that outlying areas of the analog service area will certainly lose the ability to receive certain stations once the digital signal is the only one available.

Is this not a pertinent fact? I certainly think so, yet it was something that could have been shared long before the last 90 days.

There is also the matter of power output of the stations, and the problems with digital signals. (see earlier posts here, and here) To add more fuel to the runaway fire, it seems that some stations will return to their full power after the transition, which is in direct opposition to the story given to me by a local station manager, who responded personally to my query about the disparity of 66% between the analog and digital broadcast power.

Channel 24, a local college station, and PBS affiliate, will be staying with reduced power (-66% of analog), while Los Angeles station channel 9 is proudly proclaiming that, once the signal being broadcast in the UHF region now returns to the actual channel 9 assignment, it will return to full power broadcasting.

As someone who has done more than a few hours looking, out of interest, and long time association with amateur radio, it has been hard for me to obtain the facts (I’m certain I don’t have them all!).

What chance does the average citizen have of decoding all the nonsense, technical jargon, and doubletalk. Yes, double talk. The semi-clever way that certain stations, and the FCC, have tap danced around many of the problems, and refused to explain, in one place, with a pictorial and chart about channel assignments, effective power output, a propagation problems, is truly maddening.

More than once I have explained that, in my area, the FCC still believes that my entire zip code should be watching stations from San Diego, over 100 miles away, and not the ones from Los Angeles, 65 miles away, and less blocked by mountains. Only people at the very highest elevations in my zip code are able to receive analog stations from San Diego, and much of the time that reception is influenced by ionospheric conditions; it also involves the use of a large antenna array and a rotor, or a separate antenna, pointed south, instead of one pointed west-northwest, towards Los Angeles.

Once again, if these people in charge are proving to be completely out of the loop of intelligence, how can the average user be blamed?

Yet they are. This morning on Betanews, is another article alluding to the continuing stupidity and inertia of the Americans who will have problems with the change.

As the United States sits on the threshold of the switch to digital television, we get to see the size of the “lowest common denominator” of television viewers who after more than two years of public discussion still have not readied their old TV sets for the new broadcast standard

The National Association of Broadcasters says that as of June 3, nearly 9 out of 10 broadcast-only households were completely ready for the digital switchover. According to Nielsen market research, the total number of US television households for the 2008-2009 season was 114.5 million, but homes that consume only free, over-the-air signals is just a small fragment of that. According to the SRI Home Technology Monitor quindecennial survey (PDF available here) found that in 2004, 18.9% of households were broadcast only. Using those figures, that would mean an estimated 2.16 million households remain unprepared for the digital switch.

This is precisely what research firm SmithGeiger LLC and the National Association of Broadcasters said in a statement today, estimating that 2.2 million over-the-air households are still unprepared with only one day until the switch is made. But based upon viewer behavior in the successful Wilmington, North Carolina early transition, the NAB expects that two-thirds of these two million procrastinators will make the transition as soon as signals go unavailable.

As I outlined above and before, no one, outside the friends and families of broadcast engineers, privy to all the information, will be totally ready.

Perhaps some are stupid, that is definitely their problem, and television viewing won’t be the end of their problems in this life. But for those who have either purchased a new television, or a converter box, and perhaps an antenna, the powers that be at those custom call in numbers better be incredibly patient, and will allow the callers to vent about this upcoming debacle.


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