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Country in crisis as TV sets convert from analog to digital 

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a popular movie about impending doom should America not change its ways. According to our government we are there now -– if we don’t convert television sets from analog to digital. Never mind our economic collapse. Forget nuclear Iran. And don’t worry about inner city crime. Because coming soon to a TV near you -– is blackness.

Without the correct digital conversion you will rely on someone else to tell you who won American Idol. This is serious.

The switchover that no one asked for, voted on, or cares about is so serious that Congress allocated $1.3 billion dollars for discount coupons to purchase digital converter boxes. Of course you must pass the stringent government requirements to receive this $40 dollar freebee such as financial hardships, inadequate television sets, or the inability to function without The Andy Griffith Show.

The saga of going digital is so severe that with less then one week in office, President Obama placed family photos on his new desk, learned where the restrooms were and asked Congress to postpone the TV conversion deadline. At this writing the switchover date is still up in the air with Republicans saying no and Democrats saying yes. But is it just me or are there more pressing Congressional issues and are there better uses for taxpayer billions then converter box coupons?

Why do people need government coupons anyway? No one subsidized their TV sets, why should we pay for their converter boxes? Sure it may be rough going a few weeks without broadcasting while trying to cough up $70 bucks for a converter. Weaning off of television is never easy. I remember when CBS cancelled The Beverly Hillbillies, I was devastated. But this is temporary.

And oh what a surprise, Congress is now saying $1.3 billion bucks is not enough. Senator Jay Rockefeller D-W.Va., blamed former President Bush’s “nickel and dime” approach to funding the program. For a senator to refer to billions as “nickels and dimes” illustrates just how out of touch some of these guys are.

The senator felt Bush should have devoted more attention and money to the project. But perhaps Bush had other things on his mind? Like maybe that terrorism stuff. And since no additional jets have flown into New York’s tall buildings I guess we can now worry about rabbit ear TV sets’ ability to receive the Jerry Springer Show. So cheer up Mr. Rockefeller.

According to Congress the conversion will be worth the wait and the improvements so much better. Perhaps rivaling improvements they achieved with the Post Office, Medicare, and Amtrak. 

So what are these billion dollar tax money improvements? Simply put, we are moving from analog to digital. Raise your hands if you know what that means. Me neither. But my best guess is analog is when we used to apply ball wads of aluminum foil on antennas protruding from the old RCA box. It looked funny but rendered Bonanza in living color. Apparently we won’t need that anymore.

By government decree we need digital. It has subtitles we don’t understand either like blue tooth (no, it’s not a dental disease) or blue ray (not a stingray holding its breath) or plasma (nothing to do with blood except the cost may make yours run cold) TV.

Think of analog as Bonanza, Mr. Ed, Get Smart, and Gunsmoke. Think of digital as MTV. With new improvements and a few billion dollars, our televisions will soon broadcast MTV, Judge Judy, and singing Pepto-Bismol commercials in crisp sparkling resolution. I can hardly wait.

(Burnett has been a freelance writer in Mobile for more than 20 years. For more information, visit his website.)
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by Emmett Burnett