I’ve been reading more about the DTV transition in the news these days. The transition deadline was supposed to be February 17 – although President Elect Obama is apparently re-thinking the timing. I haven’t been paying of ton of attention – because I’m more interested in the opposite end of the transition – what’s going to happen to the open white space created by the transfer to digital TV.
But I was interested when I was invited to a meeting where the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) hosted Communities of Color and Untraditional media brainstorming meeting regarding the transition to digital television at the Main Street Project.
The objective was to talk about what was needed to prepare the community for the transition and what was available to ethic and untraditional media to help. It was pretty eye opening for me. Lots of people aren’t prepared and that’s going to be an issue. First – TV is how many people get news and emergency updates. Second – TV is a great pastime. Without TV people are going to find themselves with some extra time on their hands. As one attendee pointed out – they probably won’t all pick up reading the paper to fill the hours.
So this is a big issue – but also I thought that it was a sneak peek of what might happen if there was a real push to brining broadband to the entire State. Here are some of the big roadblocks:
- Communication – getting the message to everyone – including the elderly and people with limited English skills.
- Cost – the government provides a $40 coupon for a necessary converter box – but that doesn’t cover all of the costs; and there’s currently a waiting list for the coupon
- Process – To get the coupon, TV owners must apply to the government, which is a roadblock for many people.
The other reason I was really glad I went to the meeting was an inspirational perspective from Amalia Anderson form the Main Street Project. Amalia pointed out that DTV might be the issue at hand but the longer lasting solution is to use this opportunity to develop skills and capacity to solve problems with the target communities – not just set up a DTV converter box. We need to build on a movement – DTV today maybe broadband tomorrow. (OK I added the broadband specifically – Amalia actually mentioned census, but I feel she’d be OK with me using broadband too.)