Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Delay

President-elect Obama, as of this writing, is considering a delay in the digital TV signal conversion. One side of me says, “You’ve got to be kidding!” How much time does it take the public to adjust to something as simple as a TV signal change? What are we going to do when something really whopping comes along—like changing the way we get energy from fossil fuels to renewables? This signal change has been coming for a long time. Much longer than the week your eleventh-grade history teacher gave you to do that droll essay on how the Erie Canal (Clinton’s Folly) made us the Empire State. (Actually, that’s pretty interesting.)

All the public had to do was (well, if you have cable or satellite… nothing) buy a little box. If you have the old analog TV signal thing coming through those old rabbit ears, just get one of those signal converters, where you can get a federal rebate for $40 off on a $60 converter, and hook the thing up. It’s not hard. Just take the cable from your rabbit ears, plug it into the magic box, and then take the cable that would have gone onto your TV, if the box wasn’t necessary, and plug it in where it would have gone. Then, you turn the TV on, the box on, and put the TV on the 3-switch and the box on the 3-switch and then hope the new-fangled thing-a-ma-jig finds a digital signal and then really hope the signal is strong enough. Because if it isn’t, you don’t get squat. There’s no Big-Bang fuzz if you have a weak digital signal. You get a big blank box staring back at you.

Ok, so it’s not that easy. But, there was a lot of time to get ready. Why do people always wait until the last minute to do their homework?

Well, maybe procrastination is not always negative. Maybe that teacher changes her mind: No Erie Canal essay. Over-achievers, you’re out of luck.

Senator Schumer thinks that thousands of people who have not been able to buy the converter are going to be in trouble. Suddenly, they will be cut off from the world because they won’t get any television signal. Check this out: “SCHUMER: UPSTATE NEW YORKERS AT RISK OF FALLING OFF THE DIGITAL CLIFF WHEN DTV DEADLINE HITS IN FEBRUARY - ANALOG CONVERTER BOX MAY NOT BE ENOUGH FOR SOME RURAL TV VIEWERS” Given the quality of information emanating from the boob tube, I personally don’t think that’s a bad thing. You learn from the major media what they want you to learn, not necessarily what you need to learn. Anyway, President-elect Obama’s position is “that the government's subsidy program — which offered $40 toward the purchase of a converter box — has run out of money, while an estimated 1.1 million people are still on a waiting list.” –from Springfield News-Sun

Both the senator and the president-elect have good arguments, but losing access to a dying media form is not the problem. Here’s the deal: We aren’t ready to recycle the zillions of old TV’s that are going to be tossed to the curbs and then to the landfills. They don’t belong in any landfill. They need to be disassembled by qualified people and the reusable parts reused in an environmentally friendly way. As of this writing, the bottom has dropped out of the recycling market. Recycling paper products, let alone televisions, has become a non-profit business. So, until the markets for recycling television rebound, we ought to hold off on the digital TV signal change.

In disasters, like the economic catastrophe going on right now, people can do the right thing or the wrong thing. The right thing would be to wait on the signal change, create more recycling markets via some creative, green, entrepreneurship ideas, and get moving towards a sustainable future. The wrong thing would be to keep doing the same old thing.

BTW: I’m willing to walk the walk on this recycling thing: As conservation chair of the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club, I’ve formed a Zero Waste Committee: I’m having a meeting on this digital signal conversion issue this Thursday and I hope you’ll join us: Zero Waste Meeting January 29th Much has occurred since our last meeting on Zero Waste in December. So, we are meeting at the Harro East Building - 400 Andrews St - Suite 600 (sixth floor), Rochester, New York - on Thursday, January 29th at 7PM. to bring everyone up-to-date. Parking is across the street from the front door in a small parking lot.

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