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Big Brother stole my TV

Posted By Barbara Simpson On 06/15/2009 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

So how about it? Are you one of those who procrastinated so long that the deadline arrived – last Friday – and now you have no TV reception?

Like me?

Then again, perhaps that pseudo-intentional delay reflects that TV isn’t a really big part of your life.

Like me!

I spent years of my life on television as an anchor and investigative reporter and I watched TV.

Now, doing talk radio on KSFO, the time available to sit in front of that screen is so limited that I have “appointment TV:” pick the program, watch it, turn off the set.

It’s not a trade-off; it’s a choice, but now, I don’t even have that. The government took that choice away.

Friday night was “blackout” for analog TV broadcasts. It’s over. Without a special TV, converter box or satellite reception, there’s no TV.

Oh, I got the government discount coupons; in fact, bought two converters. Then, my cable company offered me a converter free – free! OK!

It arrived. I put it in the hall, next to the other two, and haven’t touched them since. They’re in original cartons, unopened.

I know – all I need is to connect that converter and get back to normal

But, it would be an awful job, what with the different format VCRs connected to my TV.

Plus, I had other obligations. The “urgents” got done, others didn’t and one of those was the converter installation.

Just thinking about it, convinced me the TV could wait. It has and so it remains. My beautiful, loyal and dependable Sony is now just a big, black, plastic and glass – end table!

It used to be so simple. Buy the set, plug it in and enjoy. I remember rabbit ears. I remember my father on the roof, adjusting the antenna he’d made and installed so we could get clear black and white pictures instead of grainy images or snow.

Daddy’s contraption worked just fine until we had enough money to get a “real” antenna, which we did and which enabled us to enjoy years of news and entertainment.

TV became an integral part of our lives and as the prices dropped, millions of other homes joined the party. The TV business grew to undreamed of proportions. From “sign-on and sign off” to “24/7″ with hundreds of choices – networks, independents, cable, movies, live, taped, repeats, drama, comedy, classics, news, sports and even porn. Who could have imagined?

Then “Big Brother” decided, in all his congressional wisdom, that it had to change. As far as the public was concerned, it was unreal.

How could they possibly change things so that our own TV sets would be useless?

They wouldn’t – couldn’t – do that. Could – would – they?

They could, would and did. We had nothing to say about it. It was law.

The reality was first felt by the 1760 full-power TV stations, which had to foot the conversion bill. It was a hassle and wasn’t cheap.

The public didn’t know or care until the Feb. 17 conversion date got closer and it hit home that they could lose TV reception.

The sudden realization that the government – “our” government – had, in one fell swoop, made it possible for this country to be, totally disconnected from TV as a means of communication, was more than a shock. But we had no choice.

So many people were unprepared for the conversion that the deadline was extended to June 12, and while many made the changes, it’s estimated that at least 2.8 million homes weren’t prepared. The first day following the change, the FCC received more than 800,000 calls about the change and reception problems.

No doubt it’ll all work out, but it still bothers me. Until now, all we needed for TV was the set and a power source. Now we know the government can control the signal we get and when – and perhaps “if.”

Yes, it sounds conspiratorial, but keep in mind that after the Iran election last weekend, the government cut opposition radio broadcasts. It’s a successful tactic.

Could it happen here? Probably not, but a few weeks ago, we would have laughed at the idea the government would take over banks, insurance firms and auto companies – or that the FDA would regulate tobacco or a government “czar” would decide corporate salaries.

Losing TV is an important issue because without the main conduit of news and communication, millions would be isolated. Not everyone reads newspapers – what’s left of them – and not everyone is on the Internet. For better or worse, TV is still the main news source for Americans.

Thank God for talk radio – as long as that lasts, given the proclivity of this administration to control it, as it’s doing with so much of what we can do, think, eat, drink, wear, and use in our homes and businesses.

I’m infuriated that my free TV is gone for money. Money to be made by selling the old TV spectrums – by stations capitalizing on extra channels – by cable company services – by converter manufacturers – by coupon advertising and millions in tax money spent to print and sell them – by forcing purchases of new TVs by people with perfectly good sets the government made obsolete – by disposals of old sets – by recycling or just dumping old sets, albeit illegally because of mercury, cadmium and other toxics. The people pay for it all, one way or another.

On top of that, until I call the installer, I’m paying more than $60 a month for a silent, blank screen.

Ain’t progress grand?


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