Welcome to the future of TV: Here's your bill

Every now and again over the past couple of years, some media source or another has run a story about the impending switch to digital TV. As of February 17, 2009, all television signals will be broadcast in digital, as opposed to analog, format.

This was mandated by Congress, which justified it by stating that digital broadcasting will clear up frequencies for public-safety communications. I'm sure that this decision had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it would ultimately require millions of Americans to buy new televisions, which would pour tons of money into the coffers of various manufacturers. I can't help but wonder how much money Sony has contributed to Congressional election funds over the last decade or so.

On the one side, this is really pretty irrelevant. If you receive your television signals through cable or satellite, then you will not be affected. In fact, this will only be an issue for people who use television antennae, a technology that is almost out the door.

While the National Association of Broadcasters has estimated that 70 million people will need to buy new TVs, I feel like they're exaggerating the situation somewhat. After all, it seems like cable and other non-traditional broadcast methods have more or less cornered the market on media content. Beyond that, many of us are now getting our entertainment and news from our computers, where CNN updates the news instantaneously and sites like Hulu and Netflix provide television shows and movies, often free-of-charge.

Still, for those of us who still rely on the old rabbit ears, things are about to get even worse. Although the government has provided a coupon to defray the cost of the new converter boxes, they are still going to cost $20 apiece. Moreover, as the Associated Press recently reported, at least two of the new converter boxes will require users to manually program settings for each of their television shows. Otherwise, the shows are likely to appear either much smaller or much larger than the television screen.

One more time: why, exactly, are we doing this?

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. If you want him, he'll be sitting in the corner, reading a book, and grumbling about the government.
Read Full Story