Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I'd like to opine for a moment on high-definition television (HDTV). Today's Vermilion reminded me of the decade-old FCC mandate that all television stations must broadcast in HDTV by 2007, and that they should make efforts to cease analog broadcasts as soon as possible. Keep in mind that I love technology and that the HDTV picture is what I call "killer." But what I resent is being told I have to buy this technology if I want to continue to watch television (not that I really do anyway, but the principle remains).

“There are going to be some people who might get left in the dark when we turn off the analog, but we are going to turn off the analog one night and start broadcasting digital on Channel 10 the next day,” said Rodney Evans, chief engineer at KLFY-TV 10.

I like how the article paints the issue as a threat that you'll never see this particular local station again, if you refuse to switch. Not that I really care, because I stopped watching that channel six years ago, as did a lot of people; I'm surprised Vince Vaughn hasn't joined the news team yet. In any case, it's ironic that any news station would issue a thinly veiled threat that you must change your television. Some of our local news anchors look miserably pockmarked enough without having to additionally watch the disintegrating follicles of their Champ Kind hairlines in high-definition resolution! Barbara Walters and Mike Wallace must HATE this idea! Fortunately, as the article states, most stations across the country aren't switching quite as fast, because somehow most Americans have not yet thrown out their filthy old sets in favor of the new ones, just because!

Frankly, I don't see the big deal about HDTV. Unless you plan on watching Star Wars or The Matrix on DVD all the time, the technology seems pointless to have, much less be required to own. HDTV exists for three reasons: action movies, porn and profits, which is fine with me. But if you think I'm going to surrender my 2003 Sansui all-in-one unit that fast, you're nuts. My previous TV was a 1980-model Zenith with screw terminals, so you can imagine I'm not exactly a fad man when it comes to idiot boxes. Furthermore, the 1980 TV still works flawlessly, having outlasted a number of subsequent models that my household has owned. And being that I've caught cell-phone conversations on some of the higher UHF channels, I intend on keeping it just to see what's going to happen on those airwaves once analog TV goes the way of The Famous Teddy Z.

True fact: my Zenith has manual tuners for each channel, so you can literally tune in to stations much like a radio dial. Back in the mid-1990s, armed with only a basic-cable connection, I was able to get free ESPN by tuning between channels 6 and 7. This was during the period that ESPN was no longer a basic option. I also caught (cough) a couple of pay-per-views for free. Good times. Perhaps they're on to people like me; between HDTV and any TV made after the Reagan era, the airwaves just aren't fun to explore anymore. What good is technology if it doesn't let you explore the perimeter? That's why radio is so much fun.

The mandatory switch to HDTV is like discontinuing tires for all vehicles made before 2000, because hey, look at all these great new cars you should be driving! Well, screw you. Maybe people like the cars they have. Or maybe we resent being asked to pay for extremely expensive replacements when most people can barely afford to keep what they have consistently fueled and who aren't all that impressed by 700-function trackballs or GPS plasma screens telling us that we're lost (we already know that, thanks).

The so-called "free market" zealots who are clearly disillusioned about the current commercial viability of HDTV need to reconsider the shutting down of one of our most-trafficked avenues of cheap propaganda, analog television. If they shut that down, how else will they reach the minds of those moronic enough to fall for this obvious scam?


Neil Shakespeare said...

Ah, TV! Our one true God! We got our first set in 1960 and there was one station. Then we got an antenna that rotated so we could pick up South Dakota on a good day. UHF came later. Then cable. Now I have digital satellite and 228 channels, not counting the music channels or the payperview. God has definitely improved over the years. The programming is still shit, but the quantity of the shit has improved, and shit does look much better in high definition. It's a better brown.

Phillip said...

planned obsolescence baby. it's why apple comes out with a different iPod every few months and Playstation has a new version for every xmas, although with the PS2 and 3 you can at least still play the games you already have. This HDTV thing would be analagous to saying that those old games can't be played UNLESS you get the new PS3. bull...shite.

IAN - flamingo wants me to convince you to move to minneapolis. so, move to minneapolis!

Murph said...

While stations may broadcast in HD, few people still pick up "broadcast" signals. Everything is cable ... except for the people who use the dish. So really the cable companies will have to transmit the signal in HD to their customers for them to watch it in HD on their HDTV. I know you can pay extra for this on Direct TV, but I don't know about cable companies like Cox, etc.

Further, this is going to amount to more than a new TV. It's a new DVD player, surround sound system and VCR. Otherwise you're just not getting much of a difference.

Ian McGibboney said...

Neil--The Onion wrote an article a while back entitled, "High-definition TV promises sharper crap." It was illustrated with a before-and-after picture of Bob Saget talking to Jeff Foxworthy on "America's Funniest Home Videos." Great stuff. The fact is, most shows don't lend itself to the technology to enough of a degree to compel people to completely redo their whole entertainment system.

Phillip--Planned obsolescence is the number-one reason (behing poverty) that I almost never buy anything until no one cares about it anymore. I figure that, by then, I'm safe that the bottom won't drop on whatever it is I just bought.

Murph--I understand that broadcast is probably the least-used method of capturing signals these days. But if that is removed altogether, then you're spelling the end of entire product lines such as portable camper/tailgate TVs or anything else people use to pick up a quick TV signal on the go. It's more ubiquitous than you might remember. Not that less TV would be a bad thing, mind you. But I think, at this point at least, that the FCC is drastically overestimating peoples' interest and capacity to purchase this technology.

Ian McGibboney said...

Oh, and Phillip, I'm actually trying to move to Chicago right now. But Minneapolis is also a possibility. Blue states, baby!

Neil Shakespeare said...

Before and after pictures of Bob Saget and Jeff Foxworthy? Do they have any "during" pictures?

Murph said...

Oh no, Ian, I think stations will still broadcast because they do it now. It's just that the people getting the HD signal in the near future will probably not get it from broadcast unless they are part of Direct TV or Dish Network.

Nick said...

Chicago? Minneapolis? That just sounds cold. The temperature gets down to single digits!! It's cold enough up here in Columbus, MS right now. The broker I'm working for recently took some work up in Kentucky. I told them this is the wrong time of the year to even think about asking me to work up there. Right now, I go to the bars b/c there's nothing to do here but run and drink. If I get sent up there, I'd have to drink just to stay warm.

Flamingo Jones said...

Actually, the temperature gets down to negative double digits sometimes, Nick. We're hardcore here.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, I think you made a mistake on the comment thread, my man. This is especially aggravating, because now I have to follow two threads on midwest temperature instead of one. But here goes:

I hate the cold. Anything under 60 makes coordinated movement difficult for me. But Louisiana's cold (so I'm told by people who would know) is augmented by the humidity, so it's actually worse than it seems on paper. You can have the humidity and the politics. I'll happily take a chance at missing it.

Nick said...


I brought up the northern temperature thing b/c I saw above where you told Phizz you were probably moving up there. Anyway, I'm sure that's not the first time I've done or written something that irritated you.

What do you mean I can have the politics in this state? The main facees of Louisiana politics: Kathleen Blanco, Bob Odom (the most powerful person in LA), Edwin Edwards (probably still the 2nd most powerful person in the state), and Ray Nagin are all Democrats. You should love it here. We tax businesses to death and received a great tax increase thanks to the Stelly Plan. I would think you loved our state politics.