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Why? — Why Now?
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They won’t fight for SCHIP; they won’t fund heating assistance for the the poor; they won’t fix the infrastructure; but they can find money for something like this:

The Associated Press tells us that the Government offers TV coupons

WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions of $40 government coupons became available Tuesday to help low-tech television owners buy special converter boxes for older TVs that might not work after the switch to digital broadcasting.

Beginning February 18, 2009, anyone who does not own a digital set and still gets their programming via over-the-air antennas will no longer receive a picture.

That’s the day the television industry completes its transition from old-style analog broadcasting to digital.

The converter boxes are expected to cost between $50 and $70 and will be available at most major electronics retail stores. Starting Tuesday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will begin accepting requests for two $40 coupons per household to be used toward the purchase of the boxes.

Viewers who have satellite or cable service will not need a box.

To request a coupon, consumers can apply online at www.dtv2009.gov. The government also has set up a 24-hour hotline to take requests, 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009).

Congress, in ordering the transition to digital broadcasting, set aside $1.5 billion for the coupon program, which will fund 33.5 million coupons and other costs.

I assume it is more important for the masses to receive the propaganda and misinformation from the media conglomerates than to fix the flood system in southern Louisiana or to rebuild housing on the northern Gulf Coast.


1 Steve Bates { 01.02.08 at 11:20 am }

Perhaps they have a friend in the converter box manufacturing business. Look for the one with the brand name “Catapult TP” …

2 Bryan { 01.02.08 at 12:42 pm }

I don’t watch the tube, but even if I wanted to, the only channel I could receive belongs to a Sinclair Broadcasting station, which I wouldn’t watch anyway, so I’m not affected. I have a television that by all measures except date of manufacture is new because it has been on less than a week from being loaned to a friend who had family visit and didn’t want to have the children’s television choices on in the living room.

If I contemplated wanting to watch television I would buy a dual use flat screen that would be a back up monitor for a computer.

This is just stupid and the waste of more than a billion dollars. No one needs a television.

3 fallenmonk { 01.02.08 at 1:36 pm }

I cannot see why they need to subsidize this with taxpayer’s money. I don’t know the numbers but I would be surprised if most Americans were not already connected to cable or satellite. I would imagine that these little converter boxes will be dirt cheap to manufacture and I would think if it was so important to watch TV, people would buy one if they were offered at cost plus a reasonable profit. Full disclosure, I do watch TV…mostly movies and the food network and some news and I spend way too much with the cable company each month to do so.

4 Sorghum Crow { 01.02.08 at 1:58 pm }

Bread and circuses. TV will pass for the circuses part, I don’t know what the analogue for bread is.

5 andante { 01.02.08 at 4:06 pm }

I know that $1.5 billion is just chump change, but when I think of the good stuff it COULD do – it almost makes me sick enough to go to a doctor.

Well, not THAT sick.

6 distributorcap { 01.02.08 at 5:58 pm }

this country cannot live without being entertained — all the time
yankee tickets are going up 30-50% next year to help pay for that stadium (and A-rod’s $400 gazillion dollar contract) – i wouldnt give them a nickel

health care, raises for the military, affordable heating?
no worth nearly as much as one’s fill of Britney and American Idol

7 Bryan { 01.02.08 at 6:00 pm }

They are subsidizing the circuses and adding sawdust to the bread. There are certainly any number of better things to do with a billion plus, and the media should have been making people aware of the need to swap for years. They have been stalling, and reality has hit them, so they want more corporate welfare.

8 Michael { 01.02.08 at 7:01 pm }

Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. Could it be that Congress, for once, decided to help defray the costs of one of the myriad initiatives that it imposed? They like to prate about letting “the market” decide such things, but in this case they decided to mandate a change that the market is still dawdling over. And for once, when they created a mandate, they decided to fund it–albeit only partially.

As to why they might think it’s important, like it or not, television is one of the major sources of news and information for a lot of people. Congress likes to maintain the illusion, if not always the reality, that the citizenry is informed by the news media and acts rationally on the basis of the information it receives therefrom. Accordingly, if Congress forces a change in the way the media present their information to the public that makes it impossible for some people to receive any information in that way, it is arguably incumbent upon Congress to restore that access; hence the coupons.

Not saying that’s why it happened, just offering a plausible hypothesis.

9 Bryan { 01.02.08 at 9:01 pm }

Sounds plausible Michael, if you don’t know who started the move and the give-away of the broadcast spectrum that is involved. The conglomerates told Congress that they needed this, that, and the other for free to upgrade the telecommunications systems in the US. Congress agreed to the giveaways predicated on the conversion to digital and the broadcast of high definition signals. The conglomerates used the free bandwidth to expand their revenue stream while making no serious effort to convert. This conversion has slipped several times already and Congress finally imposed a “drop dead” date.

The broadcasters and manufacturers are the ones responsible, and they are the ones who should be paying. I’m really sick of corporate welfare.

10 hipparchia { 01.02.08 at 9:22 pm }

i think michael’s analysis is quite plausible.

in spite of the fact that almost everything on tv these days is misinformation, disinformation, useless information, infotainment, etc, the basic networks [cbs, nbc, etc] are still the tv version of a “newspaper of record” and keeping those channels accessible to all members of the public is probably one of the few things both sides could agree on, even if for less than noble reasons.

11 Bryan { 01.02.08 at 11:47 pm }

And the basic networks are given government assets, the broadcast spectrum, in exchange for that service. They are never satisfied.

12 hipparchia { 01.03.08 at 1:41 am }

have to agree with on that, and the corporate welfare too.

13 Cookie Jill { 01.03.08 at 2:05 am }

We only have ONE cable provider here in town. You can’t even get the local station without cable here. (Santa Barbara is angled in a weird a** sort of way geographically) Cox bleeds us dry.

I do watch Olbermann, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and, gasp….Top Chef and Project Runway. I can probably do without them…but I need a laugh sometime. But, to put entertainment at the top of the priority list is just unfreakinbelievable.

Why don’t we just campaign for “none of the above” on ballots. Show those morons they don’t have their seats permanently.

I’m just so pissed.

14 Bryan { 01.03.08 at 1:32 pm }

Cox Cable is a prime example of the sort of thing these people do – add a couple of channels to the line-up that no one wants or asked for, and raise the price. Make anything that has a cult following [NASCAR, NFL, college football, etc.] a very expensive, extra cost option, because the regular channels provide such lousy coverage.

They relocated the transmitters in Pensacola to cover the Mobile, Alabama viewers, and dumped everyone living to the east. If you don’t have cable, you get a snowy picture from channel three.