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By Jack Ganssle

Digital TV

Published 8/10/02

We're the Government. and we're here to help you.

Yeah, right.

Once again the Feds have stepped in to "improve" our lives and extort even more money from besieged consumers. The NY Times reported (http://nytimes.com/2002/08/09/technology/09TUBE.html) that a new ruling requires vendors to add digital tuners to nearly every TV sold. The cost of perhaps $250 might double or even triple the price of a television.

The FCC stated that market forces are not driving consumers towards digital TV, so issued the ruling to coerce consumers. Let me get this right: we don't want it. We've voted with our wallets to not buy digital TV. So the government's response is to ram it down our throats, drastically escalating the cost of even analog TV.

Clearly the appropriate government agency needs to bring 8 track and laserdiscs back. The fact that we don't want `em is - apparently - irrelevant.

Just a few years ago this same agency planned to turn off analog broadcasts by 2005, but had to retrench when they found digital's market share was zero. This latest ruling seems yet another desperate attempt to drag reluctant consumers in an expensive and unwanted direction.

I object to the fascist methods. And I do not see how the limited benefits of a better picture outweigh the problems that come with the switch. Seems to me that doubling the price of the most common of all appliances will just make the poor poorer.

And what about the quarter billion working TV sets currently in use in the USA? When the FCC does flip the giant switch that disables analog broadcasts, these all become junk. Tossed into landfills. What an environmental nightmare!

The only clear winners will be Zenith and Thomson, both of whom hold patents on the technology and will rake in royalties. I suppose this is yet another tax transferring wealth directly to a couple of companies. Maybe the move will be good for our industry, since the embedded content of televisions will skyrocket. But only a relative few will benefit.

Trying hard to find some good in this, perhaps the increased cost of TVs will spell the decline of the couch potato. Maybe a parade of reformed TV zombies will march to the local libraries. Faulkner and Hemmingway will be the subject of water cooler discussions, instead of South Park and soaps.

But that seems a reach.

In this season of appalling news of egregious corporate malfeasance and government sleaze, once again the rich get richer and the consumer gets screwed.