Saturday, January 24, 2009

The DTV Delay Bill

Congress is talking about delaying the transition to digital television again. If the new Senate compromise goes through next week, the transition will be postponed from February 17 to June 12.

In delaying, Congress is seeking to protect the broadcasting industry and the advertising industry that so depends on it. The worry is that about 5 million households won’t bother making the transition to digital television broadcasts. For a household without cable service, the transition to digital can cost about $100 and can be expected to take a few hours of errands and tinkering, and facing that prospect, many people might be willing to let their televisions go dark. But once the television is off, getting it on again becomes less of a priority. Television advertisers could lose millions of viewers permanently. Congress is seeking to reduce the number of viewers lost by giving people a few extra months to buy and install the new digital hardware.

The proposed four-month delay won’t make much difference, though. If anything, the declining economy will find consumers even tighter with their money in June. And with all the summer outdoor activities to go to, television will be less of a priority than it is now.