Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Digital Television and Frugal Entertainment

Those who watch television regularly probably know that the United States recently passed a law requiring all television broadcast networks to stop broadcasting analog television signals as of 17 February 2009, and to broadcast only digital television (DTV) signals. The U.S. has also mandated that as of 1 March 2009, manufacturers of television sets can only manufacture sets containing DTV tuners. Older analog TV sets will not be able to receive or display shows broadcast by DTV networks, meaning that those who own analog sets and refuse to buy newer DTV's will no longer be able to watch television.

According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, the switch to DTV is a good thing, because it will give us all an enhanced viewing experience, as stated on their DTV website:

"Digital Television (DTV) is an advanced broadcasting technology that will transform your television viewing experience. DTV enables broadcasters to offer television with better picture and sound quality. It can also offer multiple programming choices, called multicasting, and interactive capabilities.

Converting to DTV also will free up parts of the scarce and valuable broadcast spectrum. Those portions of the spectrum can then be used for other important services, such as public and safety services (police and fire departments, emergency rescue), and advanced wireless services."

Manufacturers of consumer electronics have devised digital-to-analog converter boxes that owners of analog TV sets can purchase in order to continue watching shows without buying a new DTV. However, these boxes cost between $45 and $70. The Federal government had been issuing $40 coupons to offset the cost of these converter boxes, but the Feds seem to have run out of coupons (imagine that!), so that those without coupons must pay the full price. Also, there is at least one report that these converters don't work so well (See “Technology – Not Picture-Perfect, Houston Chronicle, 5 January 2009,

On the other hand, if you want to just buy a new DTV (also known as HDTV), you will have to spend between $999 and $3597 at Paul's TV (He's the king of big screen) in Orange County, California. Or if you go with Best Buy, you can get a TV for anywhere between $109 and $3999. But I have a better idea.

It should be obvious by now that the sole purpose of American television is to hoodwink and hypnotize people into buying worthless, unnecessary things at grossly inflated prices. Not only are we being sold a bill of consumer “goods,” but we are being sold a point of view and a mindset that renders us incapable of critical thinking, that turns us into prey and that makes us into easy targets for the large, rich powerful predators who feed on us. Since this is the case, losing the ability to watch television isn't a bad thing.

It should also be obvious that the sole purpose of the recently passed DTV law was to force working-class Americans to spend money they don't have.

So here's my frugal tip for the week: don't buy a DTV converter box. And don't buy a new DTV or HDTV set. When the 17th of February rolls around, just take your analog set out to the dumpster. Get a hobby instead. Or learn a new skill. Or read books that force you to think. Or get some friends and do something meaningful and constructive. Or if you're a kid, go outside and play. Learn to play a musical instrument, to write, or to draw pictures - and make your own culture. After a few months of real life, you'll hardly miss television.

1 comment:

Stormchild said...

Hear, hear!

You are absolutely correct about every aspect of this. The 'DTV revolution' is nothing but a boondoggle, conceived and executed specifically to be a boondoggle, specifically to prey upon consumers. To create a phony shortage and force people to buy, buy, buy.

We don't have to play. I "unplugged" in 1989, and have never missed it for a second.

I love having time to read, pray, think, write music, be with my animals, stay in touch with friends, blog :-). Garden. Cook. Make things. Walk. Dance. Just Sit And Be.

Oddly enough, my TV-addicted relatives were so uncomfortable with my TV-less life that I was given a small set about 10 years ago, as an early Christmas gift right before a particularly harsh winter. Since the relatives who gave it to me were very elderly, I accepted it to keep the peace, with no real intent to use it.

Then my entire geographical area was snowed in for about ten days... which gave me the chance to try what medical types call a 'dechallenge - rechallenge' [usually used to find out if you're allergic to something]; first you eliminate the 'thing', then you re-expose yourself to it and see how you react.

Amazing result. After ten years of TV detox, I found television... boring, depressing, and almost inevitably infuriating. Incredibly limited in its range of subject matter, incredibly uncreative, consistently aimed at the most regrettable aspects of human character. ['Reality TV' didn't even exist when I unplugged. What bliss... sociopathic manipulators weren't being routinely held up as models for emulation. Imagine!]

Whatever I watched - even for only a few minutes - I found myself increasingly tired, irritable, and impatient during the experience and for some time afterwards.

I ended the experiment after less than two weeks, and it took me a month after that to regain my previous emotional equilibrium.

TV really is mental junk food, bad for the mind and soul.

Watch, now; next we'll have a mass conversion to HD radio, to create yet another phony shortage. And I can't wait until they start tampering with Internet access standards.

Meanwhile, I listen to a small portable radio that I wind up with a crank; it gets AM, FM, and SW, and suits me just fine.