Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Future Of Television: NO SIGNAL

© 2009 Stan Spire

DTV: the big rip off.

Around this region analog broadcasts have been phased out for the digital format. Before this crap hit the air circulation propeller there were all sorts of TeeVee spots pushing the change.

“Did you ever notice,” proclaimed one spot, “how most things are better with digital?”

The spot proclaimed that digital was the future of television. But not to worry: you can still receive TeeVee signals over the air free of charge if you buy a digital converter box for your old-style analog set.

So I got a box and hooked it up. Now my reception is worse than ever. Sure, there are times when I can pick up all the channels. But just now every station is missing, the all-too-familiar NO SIGNAL message floating across my black screen.

The TeeVee spot didn’t lie: most things are better with digital. But not broadcast television.

With the digital switchover stations moved from the lower channels (VHF, 2-13) to higher frequencies (UHF band). The trouble with UHF reception is that it doesn’t penetrate and cover as well as VHF. Even then I had good reception with the analog UHF broadcasts. In fact those stations came in better than the low numbers. As for digital UHF – to use the technical term, it sucks moose.

To compete with cable and satellite TeeVee, local broadcasters can split their signal into separate channels. For example the Vermont Public BS station is on 33.1, 33.2, 33.3, and 33.4. But when you split the signal into sub-channels, each one is weaker than a stand-alone main channel. Falling rain or snow can affect reception. Also, there’s the digital drop off: around 40 miles away from the transmitter the signal dies out.

Before the local stations switched to digital, one of them showed a map of this area, NENYland and Vermont. Areas indicated in orange meant that reception problems would probably occur. There was plenty of orange.

With all the mountains and hills in this region, many people are having trouble picking up the digital signal. Some are being forced to get cable or satellite hook-ups.

An outdoor antenna would probably improve my reception but no go, my landlord won’t allow it. And with my limited budget, I don’t want to spend more money for “free” TeeVee. And cable is a rip off for what they charge.

The great guvbiz thinkers had planned on the economy staying robust during the changeover, expecting more people would get cable or satellite. With the present depression, forget it.

Once the switch is complete, big government and big business will benefit. The guv will auction off the VHF frequencies to biz and everyone involved will make lots of money.

While I watch NO SIGNAL float across my black screen.

What the hell – it’s only TeeVee.

It’ll be interesting to see how this screw-over affects the ratings. I hope the numbers go right down the crapper.

Some are saying that they’re glad there’s still radio. Well, surprise, high definition digital radio is being proposed, complete with inferior reception.

Wait and see how the guvbiz conspiracy screws the pooch on that one.

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