The House overturned the Senate bill passed on Monday to delay the nationwide switch to digital TV signals. The new transition date would've moved the original February 17 date to June 12 under the bill. The congressionally-mandated date of February 17th, however, is back on schedule and is, presumably, now locked in stone.
6.5 million households, mostly lower-income, have not bought the newer digital TVs or converters for their old sets, according to a study by the Nielsen Co.
The government experienced a bit of a shortfall of funding, it seems, for the gov't-issued converter box coupons, valued at $40 and intended to help those rabbit-ear devotees buy the $70-ish converter box. They ran out, and new applicants have been put on a waiting list.
I had doubts whether the proposed delay was going to rectify this in the assumption it would only take four months. The original deadline, mandated by Congress about ten years ago, kinda snuck up on us, didn't it?
Ye Olde Editor is one of those rabbit-ear devotees, but got my converter box last May. It took a little doing to get all the stations I need to come in right, but I eventually got it down. For the little TV I watch (mostly news), springing for cable or a digital set is impractical. But, hey, I recognize a deadline when I see one.
Not that I was ever all that worked up over this switch-over anyway, I never had problems with analog TV. It's my understanding, however, that the soon-to-be freed-up analog channels will be used for government emergency signals or something. (Does no one but me smell a conspiracy there?) I mean, yes, I see an improvement in video quality with digital, but it only seems really a big deal viewing sports on a HUGE screen (all the tiny sports data and such, like scores, are more legible). The more pressing urgency, at least it seems to me, is getting TV viewers used to the 16:9 aspect ratio of modern broadcasts, "widescreen" as it were, versus the 4:3 ratio of "classic" TV. Now, the "letterboxing" effect will be reversed where the black bars appear on the sides to offset, er, non-letterboxing of classic TV.
It might be prudent to remind our younger readers that they've been trying to get this switch-over completed for at least 15 years! Americans were slow to get enthralled about HD, digital, or whatever, while TV sets built to view them were still in the $10,000 range (big shock). To say nothing of network broadcasts still being 98% analog (and 4:3) until about 5 years ago. Now, pretty much all network shows go out in Hi-Def and TV sets have tumbled well into affordability range.
Now that I've had a few months to get used to digital via converter box, I only have one real complaint: the signal coming into your neighborhood needs to be real strong, or you wind up with an unviewable, artifact-y picture, or worse yet, no picture at all! At least with analog, you might get a ghosty, snowy picture, but you'd get something. And worst comes to worst, the audio rarely failed, which was especially comforting during storm season when emergency broadcasts were your lifeline!
40-year-old medical tech Ervin Lupoe and his wife, Ava, lost their jobs recently with Kaiser Permanente Medical Center West Los Angeles. Distraught at the thought of living in poverty and homelessness, they hatched a plan that was shockingly desperate.
After sending a fax of his intentions to KABC-TV of Los Angeles(!!), Ervin shot his wife and five children to death, then turned the gun on himself, ending it all.
The chief of police, visibly rattled, commented to reporters that this is not the way to deal with unemployment(!) and there is "help out there". Well...you'd think. Not meaning to be insensitive, but I can't help wondering what else was going on with Mr. Lupoe.
Besides the gruesome nature of this tragedy on its own merits, like killing your own children, all under the age of ten, over something like this, is anyone besides me wondering why his "suicide note" (as it were) wound up going to a TV station??
Didn't call a suicide prevention hot-line, nor, evidently, ever inquired as to goverment financial assistance (presumably beneath him). But with the rather twisted view of modern man that things ony really count if they're on television, made his last official act on this earth (not counting the homicide/suicide) one of obtaining publicity for his actions. And to what end? "Shaming" Kaiser for firing him? A shot at immortality by this statement on the sour economy? (Their firing may have had nothing to do with layoffs, but the result of an internal investigation.)
I don't know if anyone else remembers this, but this series of events reminds me of the strange case of John List, the accountant who, seeing the inflation of the early '70s wreck his fragile world-view, and getting deeper in debt, decided to kill his mother, his wife, and their three kids to "send them home to heaven" and spare them the humiliation of going on Welfare. Only being spotlighted on America's Most Wanted resulted in an arrest for List 18 years after the crime (he'd assumed a new identity by that point). Google it, it's wild. (I saw the original AMW episode myself and was riveted.)
The major difference between Lupoe and List is List kept everything secret because he'd never intended to turn the gun on himself (that would be a sin, you see -- he was devoutly religious!). Lupoe wanted his actions "to count" somehow, with greater publicity.
Pop Culture sensibility-gone-wild: I'm just amazed that with everything facing him, Ervin Lupoe still thought about making the evening news.