In somewhat of a surprise, the House today voted against extending the date of the digital TV transition from Feb. 17 to June 12, a move favored by the Obama administration. The bill could not muster the necessary two-thirds to pass. For taxpayers facing the staggering $900 billion stimulus ahead, it’s a small victory. It means that the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration won’t be spending much more than the $1 billion it has allocated for coupons that Americans can use to purchase a DTV box. According to the National Association of Broadcasters, TV stations spent the equivalent of $1 billion to educate the public about Feb. 17. National Cable & Telecommunications Association members spent another $250 million. Taxpayer-funded PBS said this week said a delay would cost it an extra $22 million in operating expenses. There is a waiting list for the $40 NTIA is giving away to help Americans defray the cost of the converter boxes (on which prices have dropped to about $40 from $80, rendering it yet another giveaway bonanza courtesy of Congress). Separate studies by Consumer Reports and the A.C. Nielsen Co. found that some 93 percent of households are aware of the DTV transition. Yet Obama and Congressional Democrats claim the FCC and the Bush administration has somehow botched the program designed to raise awareness of the digital transition and urge Americans to prepare for it. In keeping with the new President’s call for greater responsibility, isn’t it about time that those 7 percent of foot-dragging viewers asked themselves how this DTV conversion they’ve been hearing about for the past two years will affect them? Then, finally, there are going to be those who won’t do anything until their TV goes blank. Whether this occurs Feb. 17 or June 12 is irrelevant. DTVÃ¢â?¬â??Get on with it!
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.