Thursday, December 29, 2005

Fire, Meet Gasoline

"My TV-watching resolution is to finally get cable!"
-- Diane Neal, actress, Law & Order: SVU, quoted in Television Week

Ms. Neal had better step on it.

You might remember a lot of news coverage in the last week or two about a tied vote in the Senate over a budget package that kind of screwed the poor and elderly, so naturally Dick Cheney took a rare daylight jaunt out of his coffin to break the tie.

Also included in that bill, but virtually ignored by the mainstream media, was the approval of the February 17, 2009 date for the end of analog TV signals. (The ones you pick up with regular TV antennas and rabbit ears and the telescoping one on your Watchman.) On that day, kiss those signals goodbye.

If you don't have cable or satellite, you are S.O.L., unless you buy a converter box. The bill also included spending $1.5 billion on providing for families that need it to receive up to two $40 coupons to defray the cost of those converter boxes. Now the bill has to go back to the House, but it's a huge mess. Can you imagine the education process that will have to be launched to prepare the public for this process? Can you imagine having to fill out a need application to be reimbursed before you can watch TV?

And by the way, in case you were wondering how they came up with the February 17 date, it's actually quite hilarious and sad: Last year the Senate Commerce Committee set the date at April 7, 2009, so TV's wouldn't go dark until after March Madness.

Then the House Energy and Commerce Committee adopted a Republican proposal to move it to December 31, 2008. Democrats, led by John Dingell and Edward Markey, proposed moving it back to April 7, 2009, but no dice.

Ah.... but two magic words: "Super Bowl"... and suddenly the date got moved to a compromise date in February.

So now the poorer half of the nation will at least get their bread and circus-- I mean, Super Bowl.

But that means their TV's will go dark before March Madness, and in the middle of February sweeps. So they never find out who wins on what reality show, who kisses who on what soap, who dies on what cop show, who murders who on what prime-time serial...

Gee, I don't think they'll have a problem with that, do you?

if you're shopping for an HDTV in preparation for that fateful day, PC World has a great primer on Ten HDTV Myths.

Oh, and one more bug I'll put in your ear before you go out shopping: You may have heard about HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, the newest attempt by the entertainment industry to reverse engineer a technological solution to foil piracy and pass it off as a better entertainment value for you, the consumer. Essentially, these are two approaches to hi-def DVD's. They'll look like HDTV, but they won't play in your present players, and there'll be two formats, and they won't play in each other's players.

Yeah, it's VHS and Betamax all over again. Except this time there's no clear winner. Just a loser: us.

And here's the thing to remember, as you buy a $20,000 TV:

It probably won't display one or both of these technologies.

Yeah, you heard me. Same with your brand new $2,500 LCD.

When HD-DVD and Blu-Ray come out, you'll not only need to buy two new DVD players with DRM in them, you'll have to buy a new TV with DRM in it. And a new computer. And a new monitor.

I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned they can shove their hi-def DVD's up their asses. I adopt every new technology that comes along, but this sounds like the biggest disaster since that Circuit City DivX debacle.

So what will America be like when its citizens find out that, to varying degrees, their TV's are now hobbled and no one warned them?


peeky said...

This decision is consistent with the Bush/Cheney "Destroy Everything Decent and Sensible" Agenda. I can't believe Cheney is still alive. I've been so patient.

Michael Markowitz said...

Has anyone just tried sneaking up behind him and going, "BOO!"?