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Syfir
If you haven't kept up on the state of television, congress is currently working on legislation that would shut off analog television signals in favor of all digital television by 2009. This means that everyone will have to upgrade their television by then or not have television.

QUOTE
"Millions of American families will need a converter box costing $60 or more just to keep watching television once analog signals cease," said Rep. John Dingell D-Mich., the committee's senior Democrat.  "House Republicans, to protect their tax cuts, would force millions of Americans to reach into their wallets and pay a television tax of $20 to $60 per TV set. Why should ordinary people pay for a government decision that makes their television sets obsolete?"
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20051026/tv_nm/...italtv_house_dc

Apparently there is a plan to issue vouchers to help people pay for the converter boxes and apparently some Democrats are are upset because they feel it will be hard for some minorities and poor people to get the vouchers.

My thoughts? Oh boo hoo. Television access is not a right. So the government is forcing a change that will cause everyone to have to upgrade their televisions or at least fork out some money to get a converter box. So what? Is it going to affect minorities more than the majority? I don't see how. Everyone is going to have to upgrade. Is it going to affect poor people more than non-poor? Yes but so what? It has to be done sometime. Digital is the future. Should the government subsidize people in the upgrades? Well that is the $64 question now isn't it?

To debate:

Since the government is forcing the change from analog to digital should the government subsidize those who can't afford the cost of conversion?

If you answered yes does that make television access a right? Why or why not?

Is 3 years long enough for everyone to upgrade on their own, even those classified as poor? Why or why not?

I know that the second question is based on my personal opinion that government shouldn't be subsidizing anything in this case but please be kind. smile.gif
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Amlord
Since the government is forcing the change from analog to digital should the government subsidize those who can't afford the cost of conversion?

The government is not "forcing a change". This is a technology issue and technology will always go forward. I don't recall people who bought Betamaxes in the 1980s getting government reimbursement because the industry settled on VHS format. The government has not offered to upgrade the tape player in my car to a CD player. The government has not offered to get me a DVD player to replace my VHS.

The government is not mandating a change. What the government is doing is setting a deadline. The decision to go to digital has already been made by industry, only the timing is up in the air. Right now, broadcast networks often duplicate their broadcasts--one for digital and one for analog.

The government should not subsidize moving to a new technology.

If you answered yes does that make television access a right? Why or why not?

No. Absolutely not.

Is 3 years long enough for everyone to upgrade on their own, even those classified as poor? Why or why not?

It is if they are interested in watching TV. It is amazing how resourceful people will be (even the poor) when they want something.
Blackstone
Since the government is forcing the change from analog to digital should the government subsidize those who can't afford the cost of conversion?

If the change results in some people being unable to watch television, at least to the extent that they're currently doing, then that can only be doing them a favor. That's especially true of the kids. Television adversely affects neurological and psychological development in them. Watch for an increase in attention span among them, a decrease in hyperactivity, and an improvement in communication skills, just to start with. And among people of all ages, watch for a greater capacity to think for oneself.
Lesly
I did a thomas.loc.gov search for "digital television" and came up with 50 hits for the House and Senate and aside from regulatory practices nothing on FCC's homepage acknowledges a digital bill—a little disconcerting. I'll hold off answering debate questions until someone can point me to the bill in question.

QUOTE(Syfir)
Television access is not a right. So the government is forcing a change that will cause everyone to have to upgrade their televisions or at least fork out some money to get a converter box. So what?


Syfir, if the people don’t have a right to watch television why does Congress have a right to regulate it?
Vibiana
QUOTE(Syfir @ Oct 26 2005, 01:33 PM)
Since the government is forcing the change from analog to digital should the government subsidize those who can't afford the cost of conversion?

If you answered yes does that make television access a right? Why or why not?

Is 3 years long enough for everyone to upgrade on their own, even those classified as poor? Why or why not?

I know that the second question is based on my personal opinion that government shouldn't be subsidizing anything in this case but please be kind.  smile.gif
*



I never watch television. As long as there's a "right" not to, I'll take advantage of it. LOL Television is banal and irrelevant and I have no interest in it. I get my news from the internet and newspapers, both sources I would trust over my local TV stations.

As far as poor people, it's been my experience that no matter how poor Americans get, they can ALWAYS afford an idiot box if they really want one. So I'm not going along with the argument that television access is "a right."
jaellon
QUOTE(Lesly @ Oct 26 2005, 08:23 AM)
I did a thomas.loc.gov search for "digital television" and came up with 50 hits for the House and Senate and aside from regulatory practices nothing on FCC's homepage acknowledges a digital bill—a little disconcerting. I'll hold off answering debate questions until someone can point me to the bill in question.
I believe the debate is mostly still in committee, or just coming out, so it's hard to find exactly which bill it is. I believe S.1268 is the one, though.

(Sorry there are no permanent links. Navigate to http://thomas.loc.gov and search for "S1268" with the "Enter bill number" radio button selected.)

Under section 2( b )( 3 ), it gives the FCC authority to terminate all analog TV broadcasting licenses by 1/1/2009.

Since the government is forcing the change from analog to digital should the government subsidize those who can't afford the cost of conversion?
The question is not whether broadcast is going to go all-digital (it will), but how and when the transition should take place. Congress is doing nothing more than coordinating the transition (and trying to make a few bucks on the side, looking at the bill, but that's another issue). They could take the other route, and do nothing. That would "help" the poor, in that they don't have to buy digital converters, but that would stall the entire broadcasting industry. I think they should go ahead with the plan to transition, but I'm opposed to subsidizing the purchase of equipment for a couple reasons:

1) The government has no business subsidizing any industry or group of people, using other people's money. Under this plan, I'm effectively going to be buying someone else a television set (through my tax dollars).
2) There are going to be hordes of people who are "poor" enough to qualify for the subsidized equipment, but well enough off that they would be able to buy the equipment themselves if it came to it. But when they hear that Uncle Sam is buying it for them, how many do you think will take the high road and buy their own? Everyone and their dog is going to be trying to take advantage of the situation if they can.

If you answered yes does that make television access a right? Why or why not?
I answered no, but... I believe that if a person has bought a television set, then they have the right to enjoy whatever programming is broadcast on the public airwaves, but I don't believe they have any right for there to be any programming. Cutting them off without warning would be one thing, but since they will have three years to upgrade, I don't think they are being treated unfairly.

Is 3 years long enough for everyone to upgrade on their own, even those classified as poor? Why or why not?
I think that three years is plenty of time for people to upgrade if they so choose. And I nearly went ballistic when I read of the Senate Democrats playing the "poor" and "minority" cards. It's one thing to defend the poor and minorities over subjects like education, health care, and basic nutrition. But television? Next thing we're going to hear is Democrats complaining about how the poor don't have enough backyard pools or recreational vehicles, and we had better cough up some more tax dollars to take care of them.

Edited to add:
John Dingell's comments, cited in the opening post, contains a bit of a red-herring fallacy that we should note. We are not going to be paying a $20-60 "tax". Taxes are paid to governments. This money is going to whichever business you happen to buy your converter from. His "reach into their wallets" comment is intended to subtly convince us that the purchase is a grievously heavy burden as well. Whether it is or not, don't be fooled by his silver tongue.
Argonaut
Since the government is forcing the change from analog to digital should the government subsidize those who can't afford the cost of conversion?

Is 3 years long enough for everyone to upgrade on their own, even those classified as poor? Why or why not?

Besides the improvements in picture/sound quality, the conversion to digital TV frees up the current analog spectrum for more public and private uses, not the least of which is police, fire, and other emergency responders.

If (as stated) the cost of a converter is $60 and we have three years to make the upgrade, I reject the notion that there are people with televisions who can't bite the bullet and set aside one dollar and thirty-nine cents per month (less than 35 cents per week...5 cents per day) for the next three years and pay for their own converters.

turnea
I'm a bit confused here. What right does the Federal government have to "coordinate" the transition to digital television?

What law allows them to mandate when all analog signal "must cease?"

Will it then be illegal to broadcast in analog?

Why?

This is not just about the affordability of the plan, but the very legality of the US congress passing a law to enforce it.

Although I understand the the public airwaves are regulated by the government, the complete shutdown of analog signals for commercial purposes seems downright draconian.

Perhaps they should offer benefits for companies to do so, but penalties for "offenders" of such a law would be unthinkable to me.

What exactly is the reasoning here.
Julian
Since the government is forcing the change from analog to digital should the government subsidize those who can't afford the cost of conversion?

The government is changing the terms of the licences it issues to broadcasters, because (my layman's understanding is that) digital TV uses bandwidth in a different way, because it is encoded differently. NO broadcaster OWNS the bandwidth that they use to broadcast, any more than any vehicle manufacturer OWNS the roads that we drive on. The airwaves are a public good, and therefore it is the right (and the duty) of governments to regulate them, and not let the market decide. (Constitutionally, radio spectrum regulation must surely come under inter-state commerce? TV is a commercial medium in the US, and signals don't suddenly stop at the state line)

And there is increasing pressure on the radio spectrum (which TV uses part of), not least from the enormous growth in mobile telephony, wireless broadband, and the like. And as technologiesl converge to give cell phones that can show TV programmes and sned and receive email as well as make phone calls, more and more spectrum is going to get used up. Should governments wait for the whole system to break down because entirely separate industries assume they can both use the same waveband? (For example, a satellite porno station broadcasting on the police or ambulance frequency? Not such a great idea, maybe.)

It sounds as though the UK is a little further down the road thatn the USA. As well as digital cable and digital satellite, there is a service called "Freeview" which has already sold several millions of these set-top boxes. Existing TV aerials can receive the signals, and the STB translates them so that ordinary TVs can red the signals. Newer TVs are already on the market here that have integrated digital tuners. Even though it sounds like we're further ahead than you in "digitisation" of TV, the switch-off for analogue signals has been set as 2010, three years before the USA. In this regard, at least, perhaps the US government is being a little too optimistic.

The only problem being that the TV set industry cannot completely shift yet, because the broadcasters are not sending out digital signals acros the whole country. So, it makes sense to mandate a date for switch-over, if only to align both broadcasters and the manufacturers of receivers.

Set-top boxes are a mid-way step that allows viewers to keep using their old TV set; no sane manufacturer or retailer will bother with analog sets after digital switch-over.

Pricing of STB's isn't really an issue. When Freeview first launched, prices were around £100 ($160 ish), yet today (only about 2 years later) they are available at a third of that or less (for basic models). Now that the switch-over date has been set, and with a public information campaign (remember, it is in the intertests of broadcasters themselves to make the transition as complete and smooth as possible - they don't want to lose audiences and therefore Ad revenue) from the whole industry and government as well, demaqnd will grow, and economies of scale will bring prices down even more. By the time of switchover, it should be possible to get hold of a basic digibox for somthing like ten dollars. (Just as one can get a DVD player for less than 50 these days.)

If you answered yes does that make television access a right? Why or why not?
Television access is not a right, or at least not an inalienable one.

Is 3 years long enough for everyone to upgrade on their own, even those classified as poor? Why or why not?

I think 2010 is a realsitic date for the UK, and the USA is much larger, with many areas much more remote than anything here. I think 2007 as a switchover date is maybe a little too optimistic. 2012 or even 2015 would make more sense from a purely practical point of view.

However, as I say, it is in the interests of the entire broadcasting industry to make things happen seamlessly, so to an extent the date itself is somewhat arbitrary. IT doesn't really matter WHEN it happens, just so long as it happens.

Mind you, in today's USA, most poor people are only poor because they are lazy or stupid or both, right? blink.gif wacko.gif
Amlord
QUOTE(turnea @ Oct 26 2005, 01:25 PM)
I'm a bit confused here. What right does the Federal government have to "coordinate" the transition to digital television?

What law allows them to mandate when all analog signal "must cease?"

Will it then be illegal to broadcast in analog?

Why?

This is not just about the affordability of the plan, but the very legality of the US congress passing a law to enforce it.

Although I understand the the public airwaves are regulated by the government, the complete shutdown of analog signals for commercial purposes seems downright draconian.

Perhaps they should offer benefits for companies to do so, but penalties for "offenders" of such a law would be unthinkable to me.

What exactly is the reasoning here.
*



Industry has already decided to move from analog to digital. The only reason they didn't do it overnight (in other words, shut down all analog broadcasts at midnight and begin digital broadcasts) is that they didn't want to annoy their advertisers and customers (viewers).

Remember that television stations have a permit for using certain bandwidth of the broadcast spectrum (their license). The FCC would like to use this bandwidth range for other things, such as emergency first responder channels. The FCC cannot give this bandwidth to a new customer without an agreement from the first one.

It isn't all that complicated. The broadcasters have already made the decision and invested the capital to "go digital". The government is not forcing anyone to do anything here. It is simply coordinating the move to digital.

With a digital signal, a broadcaster can send up to four signals in the same bandwidth as an analog signal. It offers the viewer more choices. digital vs analog
Google
Lesly
QUOTE(jaellon @ Oct 26 2005, 12:09 PM)
QUOTE(Lesly @ Oct 26 2005, 08:23 AM)
I did a thomas.loc.gov search for "digital television" and came up with 50 hits for the House and Senate and aside from regulatory practices nothing on FCC's homepage acknowledges a digital bill—a little disconcerting. I'll hold off answering debate questions until someone can point me to the bill in question.
I believe the debate is mostly still in committee, or just coming out, so it's hard to find exactly which bill it is. I believe S.1268 is the one, though.

(Sorry there are no permanent links. Navigate to http://thomas.loc.gov and search for "S1268" with the "Enter bill number" radio button selected.)
*


Ah. The SAVE LIVES Act. No wonder I skipped it. Not oxymoronic like the Patriot Act. Still... who else is in favor of a similarly named high minded act that prohibits Congress from voting on legislation if it uses recondite/adumbrate names for said acts?

Since the government is forcing the change from analog to digital should the government subsidize those who can't afford the cost of conversion?
In light of the hysteria over PBS’s lesbian broadcast on a children’s show combined with an inherent distrust for what a Republican Congress considers good policy that down the road boomerangs as anything but good policy (i.e., The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act) my disposition is the feds shouldn’t standardize the airwaves. The fact that Republicans went along with a “reimbursement” program at all raises a red flag.

Is 3 years long enough for everyone to upgrade on their own, even those classified as poor? Why or why not?
Speaking for myself, I think my most recent TV purchase is digital. My boyfriend’s older, blockier TV may be analog. We don’t watch much TV as it is. I’m not sure we’d bother purchasing a 2nd TV to replace it, or even sign up for the converter. The mandatory switch may give manufacturers a short-term boost in sales with the conglomerate media having the most cause for concern because of already indifferent viewers like me.
Julian
QUOTE(Lesly @ Oct 26 2005, 07:35 PM)
Is 3 years long enough for everyone to upgrade on their own, even those classified as poor? Why or why not?
Speaking for myself, I think my most recent TV purchase is digital. My boyfriend’s older, blockier TV may be analog. We don’t watch much TV as it is. I’m not sure we’d bother purchasing a 2nd TV to replace it, or even sign up for the converter. The mandatory switch may give manufacturers a short-term boost in sales with the conglomerate media having the most cause for concern because of already indifferent viewers like me.
*



You make a good, and related point here, Lesly. Digital TV will make pretty mcuh every single home a multi-channel one after switchover. Basic set-top boxes and digital tvs will allow reception only, but higher spec models may well have integrated hard drives (the sort of thing that powers TiVo - is that what you call it over there? the gizmo that allows you to pause live tv, record while skipping all the commercials, etc.)

While digital switchover itself may conceivably drive TV audience figures back up again through enhanced content (or just through publicity about switchover), it can only hasten the day when TV advertising loses most or all of its effectiveness in current forms. Which in turn undermines the commercial basis of most TV channels.

Here in the UK, with my lovely tax-funded BBC, I can safely say "roll on switchover". (At least until the end of the next Charter in the middle of the next decade.) Mainstream US TV is likely to split into tacky extended infomercials and top notch (but expensive and subscription-funded) premium channels.

Or maybe that happened years ago... hmmm.gif
FargoUT
It should also be noted that this will not affect the signals being broadcast via your local cable company. Comcast can (if they choose to) always broadcast an analog signal. I get an analog signal from them for $17/month, whereas their digital service is minimum $45. I've been a proponent of digital signals, but there are a few problems--people generally have more than one TV in their house. Digital TVs are hella-expensive right now. Even my HDTV isn't Digital Ready (it was a relatively inexpensive HDTV).

Another problem is that this forces people who have purchased TVs to invest even more to gain access. I've never been a fan of the government regulating broadcast signals anyway (since it often comes with restrictions of free speech, which is a violation of law). I agree that it is not a right. However, TV viewing has been on the rise, mostly due to expensive movies, gas, food, etc. For the poor citizens of the country, they will be hindered from obtaining access to a relatively inexpensive form of entertainment.

I have yet to hear an explanation as to why this would be a positive thing--if anything, an analog signal should be broadcast simultaneously for a few years after the conversion. These bills rarely get much publicity, so only those looking for it will take action now (instead of 3 years from now). A loss in TV viewership due to this action will certainly surprise broadcasters, considering how doltish they are now. Most of the people watching TV will be the ones who can't afford the upgrade.
Lesly
QUOTE(Julian @ Oct 26 2005, 02:54 PM)
You make a good, and related point here, Lesly. Digital TV will make pretty mcuh every single home a multi-channel one after switchover. Basic set-top boxes and digital tvs will allow reception only, but higher spec models may well have integrated hard drives (the sort of thing that powers TiVo - is that what you call it over there? the gizmo that allows you to pause live tv, record while skipping all the commercials, etc.)
*


Yep, with a 30 minute buffer TiVo allows viewers to "skip" commercials by fast-forwarding from one 15 minute segment to the next. TiVo doesn't modify your program plan with your cable company. Used to be, you only had so much storage space. TiVoToGo now lets you save movies on your PC. Odd that they pulled it off considering there's so much debate intellectual property. Odder still they partnered with Sony to do it.

QUOTE(Julian @ Oct 26 2005, 02:54 PM)
While digital switchover itself may conceivably drive TV audience figures back up again through enhanced content (or just through publicity about switchover), it can only hasten the day when TV advertising loses most or all of its effectiveness in current forms. Which in turn undermines the commercial basis of most TV channels.
*

As long as private companies and marketing firms need to reach consumers they’ll inevitably find a way around the obstacles emerging technologies raise between them and the bottom line. My problem with television in general is the profit-driven mindless drivel resulting in reality TV and puritanical guiding principles that when combined passes for entertainment in America today. TiVo can block out programming but it doesn’t make a dent in your cable bill. If you want to watch Sopranos you have to accept whatever package the cable company pushes to meet profit-based contractual agreements with HBO. Not only does it result in paying more for something I don’t want, it means spending an hour programming my remote to ignore unwanted fluff. I’ll just stick with basic.

QUOTE
The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents scores of local Television stations, said it would oppose the bill because it would not cover all the traditional television sets in American households, estimated at over 70 million.

"NAB opposes the bill on grounds that tens of millions of Americans could lose access to local TV stations if the McCain bill becomes law," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton.

A team of lobbyists for the organization fanned out across Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to oppose the bill, one congressional aide said. McCain, an Arizona Republican, has long fought broadcasters over using government-given airwaves.

- US broadcasters object to planned digital TV bill


If you answered yes does that make television access a right? Why or why not?
Your comments concerning Democratic whining make me scratch my head with Republicans in control of committees. In the Senate McCain is chairman of the Commerce Committee, which overviews the telecommunications committee. While I like McCain, and I think he’s right to counter Session’s bill—another misleading bill called Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act—by introducing counter legislation, McCain has a history of benefiting from telecommunications legislation. There has to be something in it for his campaign again.

Republicans either wrote in the section of the bill that foots the conversion cost for viewers or included a Democratic addendum. Either way, so far Republicans haven't objected enough to get that camel out and now they have to deal with Democratic ideas of insuring everyone, especially minorities and the poor, has access to this conversion box.
turnea
I think I was unclear in my wording so I'll trim things down to the key question in my mind.

Even if broadcasters are going digital, why does it take a federal law to "regulate" that transition?

Has the FCC demonstrated need for the transition to occur by this date?

If a few broadcasters wish to keep their analog service would they be allowed to?

Are current arrangements simply insufficient for emergency signals?

If we have been doing well so far, why the deadline?
skeeterses
Since the government is forcing the change from analog to digital should the government subsidize those who can't afford the cost of conversion?

If you answered yes does that make television access a right? Why or why not?

Is 3 years long enough for everyone to upgrade on their own, even those classified as poor? Why or why not?

There is even a more important issue involved than whether the poor folks can afford TV or not. Should the Federal Government be regulating any radio channel other than the ones used for public safety purposes? (Channels should be set aside for the transportation industry and emergency responders like the Police and Fire departments.)

As far as government coordinating the change over is concerned, Private Industry is already capable of doing the coordination. After all, it was Private Industry that has established the RFCs for the Internet, International engineering standards, standards for computer programming languages, etc.
Syfir
QUOTE(skeeterses @ Oct 27 2005, 03:56 AM)
There is even a more important issue involved than whether the poor folks can afford TV or not.  Should the Federal Government be regulating any radio channel other than the ones used for public safety purposes?  (Channels should be set aside for the transportation industry and emergency responders like the Police and Fire departments.)


I would have to say yes to this. The government should be regulating the radio spectrum. Why? Because someone has to and they are the only one with the right to do so. The whole interstate commerce thingy as Julian mentioned earlier.

Now there are several reasons why they are mandating a move to digital but one of the reasons they have the right to mandate an end to analog is how the move to digital is being done. It is not being done by saying on January 1, 2007 we are going to flip a switch and suddenly television is going to be digital. That doesn't allow very much time for people to adapt to the change.

What has happened is that the FCC, in 1997, gave "broadcasters $70 billion worth of spectrum to broadcast digital alongside analog until 2006. FCC also mandate[d] that in 2006 all broadcasts must be fully digital. " They then said that the extra spectrum must be given back when the switch was completed. Now the deadline has been extended but the whole concept was that they would have extra spectrum for free to help people gradually switch. (For the quote above and the original timeline see http://www.pbs.org/opb/crashcourse/hdtv/timeline.html)

Another reason they are the ones to mandate this is because this is a different situation than something like the whole VHS/Betamax issue. With something like that the consumers can decide by buying one or the other or neither. There is unlimited supply in that anyone can get into the video tape business. However with broadcasting it is in effect a limited monopoly. That is the supply of spectrum space is limited and you really have to have a monopoly on that band of the spectrum.

That this "monopoly" was necessary was realized early on when several competing radio stations tried to use the same frequencies as there was no regulation. Whoever had the strongest signal won. Rather than that type of anarchy the government stepped in to regulate it. It is unique rather like the airline industry is unique. There is only so much airspace (read spectrum for broadcasting) and so some sort of regulation is required.

I know that my comments early were directed mostly at the Democrats for complaining that not enough was being done, but I guess I don't like the Republicans giving ANY money. I was just more upset that the Republicans are giving some and the Democrats are upset that it's not enough.

QUOTE(turnea @ Oct 26 2005, 03:42 PM)
I think I was unclear in my wording so I'll trim things down to the key question in my mind.

1. Even if broadcasters are going digital, why does it take a federal law to "regulate" that transition?

2. Has the FCC demonstrated need for the transition to occur by this date?

3. If a few broadcasters wish to keep their analog service would they be allowed to?

4. Are current arrangements simply insufficient for emergency signals?

5. If we have been doing well so far, why the deadline?
(numbering added by me for ease in responding)

1. Part of it is the whole "extra spectrum" issue as indicated before part of it is that because of the partial monopoly it is in the best interest of the public to have a standard format. While it is a pain to have to upgrade to digital to keep television service can you imagine how bad it would be if there were two or three competing formats like the whole HD-DVD/Blu-Ray issue? You would have to have two or more televisions just to get what you currently get now.

2. I think the main thing is the sooner it gets done the sooner the FCC gets the extra spectrum back that they gave out to help convert.

3. From a legal standpoint the broadcasters will not be able to keep broadcasting in analog because the terms of their license state that they have to broadcast in digital. They are welcome to keep broadcasting in analog but they would have to find some other portion of the spectrum to do it in. (basically the same as saying they can't as they would need a license for that portion as well.)

4. I have not heard the emergency signal argument before but I guess it makes sense as more and more emergency teams (police, ambulance, fire fighters etc) are needing more and more spectrum for cell phones, radios, etc. they will be needing more spectrum space. As the technology evolves for better tools that use parts of the spectrum, space has to be made for it. Also it has to be in a useful section. There is a reason that VHF television (channels 2-13) get better reception than UHF (14~).

5. As long as there is no deadline the broadcasters get to continue using the spectrum given by the government without charge. Why should they give it back? Thus a deadline.

still
Since the government is forcing the change from analog to digital should the government subsidize those who can't afford the cost of conversion?
If they were smart, the broadcast networks would partially subsidize this themselves. My feeling is that television is not a right. But what information source is? Is radio a right? What if a similar thing was being done to AM/FM radio signals -- something that made current receivers obsolete? At what point should the government be concerned that a significant part of the public does not have access to information carried by these media?

You may say that I'm playing with semantics here, but it would appear that television is not quite a privilege either. No one can take away your access to TV like they can your driver's license for using a vehicle on a public roadway, even though both are accomplished via purchasing a third-party mechanism & using it on a government-maintained throughway. If it's a privilege at all, it has to do with how much money you have to afford the mechanism. If you don't have a car, for example, in many places you can take subsidized mass transit.

Television is not required for maintaining a daily existence, but then neither is a car, the Internet, indoor plumbing, telephones, or electricity. None of these are "rights" either, but subsidies are available, for example, for certain income-challenged segments of the population, for access to electricity & a telephone. To be fully participatory in our society, you are encouraged to have these things; but you are, of course, free to drop out and not use any of them. If it's to the government's advantage to have a population that takes advantage of it, then the government should encourage its use.

If you answered yes does that make television access a right? Why or why not?
Neither right nor privilege. How important is television to the national economy? I would argue that it is the single most effective way to get people motivated to purchase things, and not just with commercials. Watching people use products in a quasi-real-world way that makes them appear happier to have them makes a big difference. It would behoove those in power to make sure that this part of the economic engine keeps running smoothly.

I don't think it's a right in the sense that you could file a class-action lawsuit against the government for flipping the switch. But if the government doesn't treat it like one, they'll have some unhappy people on their hands.

Is 3 years long enough for everyone to upgrade on their own, even those classified as poor? Why or why not?
We're talking about an effective recall of all analog television receivers -- either you purchase a new one, or you have the old one fixed. I think three years is plenty of time for the people who are able to upgrade to do so.
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