As most of you know by now, there has been a bill introduced in the Senate asking for a delay in the transition from analogue to digital television. This bill came about at the request at none other than President Elect Barak Obama whose Transition Team saw that there was a problem with under funding of the coupon plan which had promised to assist low income people who still had televisions old enough to need converter boxes. Apparently there are more of those people than anyone ever thought, mostly in rural areas, but also in places like Los Angeles. Thousands of people have not received the coupons promised to them because of this funding shortage.
You guessed it. Senate Republicans have blocked the bill. We’re back to partisan politics all over again.
Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, whether you voted for Obama or voted for McCain, this should concern you. Not delaying the transition is a very serious matter.
Some people might think, so what? So some people don’t have TV service for a while, big deal, right? Wrong! It is a very big deal not to have television service.
First, our citizens need television service to provide them with public service announcements and warnings. Perhaps a tornado has been spotted or the conditions are right for tornadic activity. Radios are useless for the hearing impaired, as many elderly are, as they provide too much distortion. A television, however, provides visual information. A hearing impaired person can read the warning scroll across the bottom of the screen; if nothing else they’ll comprehend the words “TORNADO WARNING” and take appropriate action.
Second, believe it or not, there are still people out there who do not have any phone service, cell or landline. Some figures quote it to being 5.1 million Americans as being without any phone service and of those figures, 1 in 4 poverty stricken rural families or persons does not have telephone service. Another source states it as being 3.5 million adults and 1 million children.
So, the children can hear the radio message and tell Grandma to take cover, right? Uhhh, you’re going to trust the lives of these people to children? Oh, no, you meant the kids parents could tell Grandma. Well, maybe they could if Grandma lived with them, but she might not. Besides, maybe they didn’t hear the message. In case you didn’t know it, tornadoes are often preceded by thunderstorms which cause the power to go out, so these folks might not hear the message themselves since a radio is an electric device. Oh, sure, they could always pop in a battery if they could afford a battery, but if they could afford such luxuries as batteries, they’d probably have a phone, don’t you think?
You see, a person with means turns on a TV before the storm takes out the electricity. We see the skies turn dark, and we turn on the TV to find out what’s what. We might even be already watching television in the first place. In this way we know the danger of the situation before the power goes out and we no longer have television access.
Third, we need an informed citizenry. Television is more than mere entertainment – it is a source of education and news. When our citizens don’t know what is happening in the world around them, they miss opportunities to better themselves which in turn deprives them of the opportunity to give back to their community.
It is dangerous to allow people to be isolated. Think of the backwoods people after Hurricane Katrina. These folks continued to live in homes with three feet of standing water because they didn’t know they could be put up in a hotel just fifteen miles away. This could have caused an outbreak of typhoid or other infectious disease since there was no possible way of handling proper disposal of waste products. This, in turn, could have infected an entire community.
That, of course, was an extreme example. Nevertheless, we want our citizens to be informed of the world around them. These people vote. In fact, rural voters take their vote very seriously. If these people are uninformed, they will most likely keep their vote only on party or religious lines.
Some may argue that they have done so already even though they have had access to television service through the use of antennas. But that is far from the truth. In fact, this last election the swing of rural voters for Obama from McCain in October helped to seal Obama’s victory.
Fourth, it isn’t just rural citizens who will be affected. Surprisingly, a large number of people affected also live in large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising sine large metro areas have several TV stations from which a person can get reception with just an antenna. In any event, the poor in large metro areas will be affected, and what are these people to do if this source of entertainment is gone? Teenagers will be more likely to fall into gangs without television, and crime in general will probably increase.
Fifth, our economy needs its citizens to have television service. Television, with its commercials, helps stimulate buying which helps stimulate the economy. Poor people don’t have much to spend, but they do spend. It is by seeing ads on television that they decide to buy a new product or go to a new fast food restaurant the next time they have funds. This, in turn, helps the company that sells and makes that product, as well as that fast food restaurant, stay in business. It also helps all of the people connected with those products and services to retain their jobs.
While the few dollars one person might spend doesn’t seem like much, don’t forget that we’re talking about millions of people who are unprepared for the transition to digital. According to the Obama Transition Team, 7.7 million households – not people – are unprepared for the transition to digital. Just think of all of the money that those millions of people might spend if they had the ad for the new Pizza Hut Pizza flashed before their eyes, or they saw the latest cooking gadget, or the newest gasoline additive, guaranteed to increase their gas mileage.
Whether they realize it or not, this problem will affect everyone associated with television. If people stop watching commercials, then the television broadcasting companies can’t sell air time for as much or at all. Again, less money flowing. Television broadcasting companies are less likely to create things like made for TV movies and specials when there is less revenue; instead, they’ll just show reruns. When they don’t create new shows, all of the people associated with the industry don’t have work. This trickle down effect can also occur on a local level. While local television companies don’t produce many new shows, they do lay off people when they are losing money.
Sixth, Why do you care? Seriously, why? Are you in so big a hurry for the digital age that you can’t wait a little while longer?
Besides, don’t you think it would be the patriotic thing to do to show support to our new President to stand behind him in his first request. It is such a little thing after all. He’s not asking for money, he’s not asking for sweat or blood. All he’s asking is a delay to digital to allow the Department of Commerce to find the funds to pay for the coupons they promised those who couldn’t afford converter boxes. It was a promise after all. Don’t you want our government to live up to its promises?
Barak Obama campaigned on the promise of “Yes, We Can.” He promised change for us all. But he can’t do that alone. It takes all of us to make change happen.
We will see change happen in big ways or little ways. Some things may not mean much to us. But they will all be the inch by inch way to a better life for us all.
I don’t know if our new President can live up to his campaign promises. All I know is that it is up to us more than it is up to him to make this into a brighter America.
A new vote will soon be held on this bill. Contact your Senators and tell them that you want them to vote in favor of delaying the conversion to digital or, if they must vote negative, for them to present in clear and easy to understand terms to the people of their state why they are not in favor of delay. Do not accept anything less. Do not accept vague reasons such as “it would hurt the broadcasting industry.” Think about it – considering the argument I’ve presented here, do you really think it would hurt the broadcasting industry? Many of the television shows are already being broadcast in digital, so what’s the harm to delay the complete conversion? Demand a concrete reason. Without it, all you have is partisan politics. And we, the people, Democrats and Republicans alike, should fight against any attempt to play games with our lives in such a manner. Remember, these folks work for YOU.
I’ve provided the link for contacting your Senator with the citations listed.
If you disagree with me, please write an article describing your reasons and publish it here on Associated Content. I welcome your comments! While the poverty stricken will never see either article, open debate among the rest of us is a good and healthy thing.