Digital TV Transition Inspires Anger, Fear, Other Mongerings
This Friday, television as we know it will change as all analog broadcasting ceases and the airwaves go digital. Like other major traumatic events in America (natural disasters, terrorism, general elections), most of the country will not be directly affected by the outcome. But with 3 million homes still not ready for the digital transition, the analog anxiety of potentially missing an episode of Wheel of Fortune, Cheaters, or - mon Dieu! - The Bonnie Hunt Show could have disastrous consequences. At least that's what everyone hopes.
With little to no data about the telegraph-to-telephone or pony express-to-mailman transitions available to the media, outlets such as USA Today are choosing to err on the side of emotional extremes in predicting the reaction to the impending switchover:
Any transition in life is difficult, but networks, local stations, and PBS have been bombarding viewers for a solid year with PSA's and lower-third crawls warning them that those rabbit ears could become useless this spring. The deadline was supposed to be February 17, but Congress extended the deadline, giving broadcasters and viewers more time to prepare. Analog devotees should already be at the Depression stage, having hopefully Bargained with a hapless Best Buy employee for their converter.
Anger requires a lot of effort, however, and fear seems like a more easily-stoked response to this brave new digital world. From seniors to non-English speakers to low-income individuals, no one is safe from local television and print sources fanning the flames of fright. Just imagine the coverage Saturday morning, as field reporters interview frazzled citizens who had to go down to the VFW hall or the local college just to get a weather report. Here's a paraphrase of how each of those packages will end: "It's a shame that the individuals I interviewed today will not be able to watch this segment when they return home. At the public library, Chip Dickerson." Troubling.
As with every crisis, someone's trying to get in on the profit end. Cable-provider Comcast created a "Digital Broadcast Transition Rapid Response Team" to perform immediate cable installations for potential customers so desperate for television that they resort to cable subscription. Imagine the look on that elderly Alabaman woman's face when she discovers that BET is not a poker channel.
Other than a handful of TV-less vegan hipsters in Bushwick, everyone we know is prepared for Friday. But watch out for your neighbors. Keep that volume low and the curtains drawn. You don't know what's going to happen when normally peaceful individuals miss the Showcase Showdown.