Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Pile Up

Reuters reports:

A nine-car NASCAR pileup may have wrecked a vehicle sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission, but it gave the agency more mileage in advertising the imminent switch to digital TV signals, the FCC's chief said Monday . . . . Asked if it was a bad omen for the switch, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told reporters it was more of a silver lining. "Except for the cars that win the races, the cars that are in wrecks get a lot of attention," he said.

Similarly, according to TV Week, the Chairman stated:

"Except for the car that wins the race, the cars that crash get a lot of attention during the race itself," he said. "From our perspective, it would be better if he won, but he gets quite a bit of attention. ... [T]he cameras focus on it. What we are trying to do is get all the attention on this car. So we appreciate all his efforts to do that."

Seriously. Are we to believe that driver David Gilliland made a special effort to draw attention to the "DTV Transition" message on the front hood of No. 38 by maneuvering it into a picturesque nine-car pile up (viewable via link in my previous post) to "get all the attention on this car"? Does this not instead illustrate the folly of this use of taxpayer funds that were supposed to be directed to help educate the millions of Americans who rely on analog over-the-air broadcasting about the digital transition that is now a mere 100 days away?

Members of Congress are apparently quite concerned about the progress to date in readying the American public for the transition. In a recent letter to the FCC, NTIA, the NAB, and TV networks and their affiliates, Reps. John D. Dingell (D., Mich.) and Edward J. Markey (D., Mass.), the chairman, respectively of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its telecommunications and the Internet subcommittee, asked how the agencies and groups were responding to lessons learned from the September early DTV transition in Wilmington, N.C. The letter to Chairman Martin identifies three problem areas: rescanning converter boxes; antenna issues; and signal contour revealed by the Wilmington test and asks what specifically the FCC is doing to address each. Judging by the letter, there appears to be a lot of serious work to be undertaken to ensure a smooth transition to digital broadcasting. So, let us hope that the NASCAR pile up is not an omen about the success of the DTV transition and that the leadership changes now underway in Washington will act swiftly to address this other important 2009 transition without additional waste of taxpayer resources.

posted by Barbara Esbin @ 12:41 PM | Digital TV , The FCC