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Conflict of Interest May Taint DTV Delay Proposal 339

Posted by timothy
from the hard-to-find-true-disinterest dept.
Anonymous writes "Ars Technica has discovered that one of the Obama transition team members advising on the digital TV transition has a conflict of interest that would benefit WiMAX carrier Clearwire over Verizon. 'Barack Obama's call to delay the DTV transition would affect not only millions of analog TV viewers, but also powerful companies with a vested interest in the changeover date — including at least one with an executive on Obama's transition team.'"
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Conflict of Interest May Taint DTV Delay Proposal

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  • Impressive... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Totenglocke (1291680) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:29PM (#26454733)
    ...Obama's not even in office yet and he's already got the beginnings of a corruption scandal going. I think this is a new record!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by poopdeville (841677)

      Corruption scandal? Merely having a conflict of interests is not unethical.

      • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CannonballHead (842625) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:38PM (#26454889)

        At my work, I'm actually not allowed to have a vested interest in a competitor. But I guess government advisory boards can favor different companies if they want, based on vested interests of their advisory board members...

        If so, that would be yet another reason governments tend to run worse than private enterprises. :)

        • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by philspear (1142299) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:45PM (#26455011)

          If so, that would be yet another reason governments tend to run worse than private enterprises. :)

          So we have one example of where private enterprise bans conflicting interests and one where government also bans conflicts of interest, but it sounds like that may have been compromised.

          Not to say that government as good as private enterprise or better, but that's some shady logic you're using to for a general indictment of government.

        • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai ... m minus language> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:49PM (#26455075) Homepage Journal

          There are certain sectors where conflicts of interest are unavoidable. Financial Investing and Politics are two them. The general remedy in these situations is full disclosure rather than suffer a chain of recuses every time you try to get something done. With full disclosure, at least the opposition can frame your decisions properly and decide whether or not they are motivated by personal interest.

          That's why Cheney received only a minimal amount of heat for his Haliburton connection. Everyone knew up front what his interests were and had ample opportunity to question his motives.

          • Re:Impressive... (Score:4, Informative)

            by PortHaven (242123) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:51PM (#26455131) Homepage

            And correct me if I am not mistaken. But he also gave up all personally benefiting assets in Haliburton.

            The only assets that remained were in control of his charity foundation.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by AKAImBatman (238306) *

              That is my understanding, yes. Though that doesn't completely remove potential conflicts of interest. Trading political favors comes to mind as one way to work around a divestment of assets.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by philspear (1142299)

            That's why Cheney received only a minimal amount of heat for his Haliburton connection. Everyone knew up front what his interests were and had ample opportunity to question his motives.

            I feel it's important to point out that Cheney was one of Bush's closest advisers and policy makers, not to mention second in line to the presidency. This guy Salemme on the other hand appears to be an unofficial part of the transition team, advising as an expert on this one matter. He's not mentioned on Obama's website as even being a member of the transition team, although it's clear he is, he appears to be meeting with congressmen. It's not like he's writing checks to his company or pulls Obama's stri

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            minimal heat my ass. Every lefty and/or democrat-leaning person in media constantly accused and berated him about that connection.

            Don't give obama's people a pass just because you're sympathetic to his politics.

            The proper remedy here is not disclosure, it is recusing the person with the conflict of interest from participating in the decision.
            • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Tanktalus (794810) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @05:24PM (#26456703) Journal

              As a rabid right-winger, who dislikes the issues Obama stands for, I have to disagree on the remedy. In my mind, it's both. Disclosure, but participation in the discussion. And no voting (actual say) on the decision. Allow the rest of the team (and citizens in general) to know his background, but recognise that though there may be a vested interest, he may actually be an expert in the field. Making such a decision without people who actually care (vested interest) and are technical experts in a field is pretty much about as stupid as making the same decision and letting the vested interest (especially an economic interest) run roughshod over the process.

              By all means, bring in the experts. Just don't let the ones who will financially benefit actually vote on the outcome.

              And I say this without regard to political party.

        • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:52PM (#26455145)

          To be fair, there is a difference between a company and a government. A company inherently operates in a particular sector. They have a fairly well-defined scope so it's reasonably easy to pick out who their direct competitors are, who their partners are, and what companies they have no particular link to.

          High-level government officials and teams, however, inherently have some level of influence over every imaginable sector/industry. Which means that the chance of a conflict-of-interest arising becomes much higher (if you pick a random economic sector, and you have a group of 10 people, there's a good chance that one of those people will gain or lose in some way depending on decisions made; whether it be because of owning stock, having a family member employed by that industry, etc.).

          That having been said, government officials should absolutely be held to a very high standard on conflict-of-interest cases. The appropriate action here would be for that particular Obama team member to recuse himself from any decision-making related to that particular issue. He can remain active in other aspects of planning, but should absolutely not touch anything related to this conflict-of-interest (and the planning/execution should be done in a transparent way so that the public can be confident that he wasn't involved).

      • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by johnsonav (1098915) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:41PM (#26454927) Journal

        Merely having a conflict of interests is not unethical.

        But when that conflict of interest results in government policy which favors those interests, at the expense of competitors, that's potentially unethical. Of such things, corruption scandals are made.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Funny, I seem to remember the massive calls for Cheney's head because he was the CEO of Halliburton prior to being elected VP (of course, by that time he had stepped down and divested all shares of that company). All in the name of "conflict of interest"...
        • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:51PM (#26455113) Journal

          Funny, I seem to remember the massive calls for Cheney's head because he was the CEO of Halliburton prior to being elected VP (of course, by that time he had stepped down and divested all shares of that company). All in the name of "conflict of interest"...

          The rules work differently depending on which party's partisans happen to have the most mod points when such comments are made.......

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            The rules work differently depending on which party's partisans happen to have the most mod points when such comments are made.......

            And thanks to his transparency he's shown throughout his Vice Presidency there have been zero questionable activities at all. Those secret energy meetings were kept from the public because they were too "technical" for us. And Halliburton/KBR really did earn all those no bid contracts in Iraq.
          • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Informative)

            by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @04:32PM (#26455875)

            The rules work differently depending on which party's partisans happen to have the most mod points when such comments are made.......

            The analogy between the situations is pretty weak.

            1) Was Obama ever president of Clearwire? No. Some guy lobbying Obama (not even in his administration) is an executive v.p. of Clearwire.
            2) Is the Obama administration going to give Clearwire billions of dollars? No. It's going to make a decision that arstechnica argues might help Clearwire by delaying a competitor.
            3) Did Clearwire overcharge the government $1 Billion [bellaciao.org] in "the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career" according to a govt. contract officer with 20 years of experience? No. (It's not even possible, since Clearwire isn't getting a payoff from taxpayers).

            So equating the two situations only shows that your judgement is clouded by partisanship.

            • by Shakrai (717556)

              So equating the two situations only shows that your judgement is clouded by partisanship.

              No, I made an observation on the types of comments that we see around /. and the manner in which those comments were moderated. I haven't really taken a position either way on the Cheney issue, other than rolling my eyes at the fact that his name came up in a discussion about the new administration.

              Calling me a partisan is pretty funny too because I've rarely agreed with the Bush administration on anything. In fact I was a partisan in the other direction right up until the time that Obama reversed himself

        • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Achromatic1978 (916097) <robert AT chromablue DOT net> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:53PM (#26455167)
          Probably something to do with the fact that the Congressional Research Services investigated and discovered he still had:
          • deferred salary, tied to earnings
          • retained stock options, available for exercise after he stepped down
          • a 401(k) account which had investments in Halliburton

          and had been found that his statements that he had removed financial ties to himself and Halliburton to be "steeped in loopholes and legalese and avoidance".

          You were saying?

          • by MBGMorden (803437)

            You were saying?

            Regardless of what HE was saying, it still doesn't change the fact that this member of Obama's team is also still involved with a company that would be directly benefiting from this legislation. Unless your goal is merely to prove that Bush's cronies are just as bad as Obama's (which frankly isn't hard - not even the Republicans can stand Bush anymore), then you haven't accomplished much.

            • by jedidiah (1196)

              Let's see... "advisor" or "staff" with a conflict of interest.

                                          versus

                                          vice-president with a conflict of interest

              Yep... those two sure are the same thing.

              Anyone with a clue is bound to have an stake somewhere.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                How about Tim Geithner, Obama's choice to be Treasury Secretary, failing to pay $35,000 in taxes over 4 years AND getting a tax rebate from the IMF for those never-paid taxes? The man who is to be in charge of the IRS and taxation is himself a tax cheat...
      • It is if you take part in the decision making. If you have a conflict of interest, it is your responsibility to step aside for such a decision. That said, I don't know if that's the case here or not. Just being on the team doesn't mean he swayed the team one way or the other.
      • Corruption scandal? Merely having a conflict of interests is not unethical.

        These things are rarely accidents.
      • Yes it is. Even the appearance of a conflict of interest undermines the credibility of an organization. An actual conflict of interest prevents you from making good decisions for an organization no matter what. In any case a person in such a situation will do more harm to an organization than good.

        On the other hand, it is pretty much impossible for a government official not to have a conflict of interest. Still, this is so blatant that it undermines the credibility of the administration.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      New record == change, right?
    • by PortHaven (242123) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:50PM (#26455109) Homepage

      The "C" in Chicago stands for "Corruption".

    • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by greg_barton (5551) <greg_barton AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:56PM (#26455229) Homepage Journal

      I think this is a new record!

      No, the record was when Rush Limbaugh christened the Obama recession [rushlimbaugh.com] two days after Obama was ELECTED.

      • by Idiomatick (976696) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @06:50PM (#26458183)

        Rush Limaugh is a national hero. That man has balls, to say the truth when facts are utterly against him.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Buelldozer (713671)

        That's chump change. The Dem's were sacrificing Bush (holy LOL!) for the collapse of the Tech Bubble and that started BEFORE Bush was elected!

    • Re:Impressive... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @04:01PM (#26455309) Journal

      When Barack Obama stocks his staff with industry insiders, it's corruption. When George W. Bush stocks his staff with industry insiders, it's just politics as usual.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        When Barack Obama stocks his staff with industry insiders, it's corruption. When George W. Bush stocks his staff with industry insiders, it's just politics as usual.

        When George W. Bush stocks his staff with industry insiders, who make policy decisions that directly benefit their industry, it's corruption. When Barack Obama stocks his staff with industry insiders, who make policy decisions that directly benefit their industry, it's more of the same.

        I saw the red flags when Google started to get more busine

      • The guy in question has made some campaign contributions (apparently around $17,000).

        He has an impressive history in the industry and as a lobbyist in DC. The guy has been around, knows his technical info, and knows who to talk to in DC.

        But.... He is not on Obama's staff. It appears that he was invited to some of the campaign parties, and that he has (post election) been invited to one or more meetings as a consultant with the head of Obama's Science and Technology working group. A group headed by Tom Wheel

    • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Toonol (1057698) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @04:11PM (#26455485)
      I voted against Obama, because I think his political views are nonsense. Even so, I would never claim that this was corruption. Any appointee is going to have a history, investments, and contacts in their related field, because that's pretty much why they're being appointed in the first place. All this means is that proper procedures and disclosures need to be followed in order to ensure that corruption doesn't happen.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GooberToo (74388)

        I voted against Obama, because I think his political views are nonsense.

        Many voted against Obama because many of his views generally are nonsense and just about every significant opinion held on current affairs have proved to be the wrong opinion to hold. Many voted against Obama because they believe in the US Constitution. Obama seemingly likes to pick and choose the parts he likes. He'd rather the 2nd amendment go away. Conversely, many voted for Obama because he wasn't Republican and is black.

        Many voted

  • Same-ole, same-ole (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oakleeman (939179) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:34PM (#26454801)
    Welcome to the new regime, which will probably end up as corrupt as the old regime. Two of his appointees are already under fire for questionable activities in their past. The most recent being the Treasury appointee who owed back IRS taxes.
    • Richardson, Geithner, TV scandal ...
      Even "Whitewater" Hillary starting to look good in comparison.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by philspear (1142299)

      To be fair, Obama's campaign wasn't really centered around "I'm going to vet every single postion I fill much more rigorously than anyone ever has before." Not that discovering the present case would have been too dificult to discover, but it's a long shot from Obama saying "You know what? Let's hire someone with conflicting interest on something fairly minor. Make a little extra cash and potentially making things just a little more interesting before I even take office."

      Calling it corruption is making a

    • by mosb1000 (710161)
      Hey, at least you will know that the head of the Department of the Treasury (the IRS is a branch of the treasury department) knows where you are coming from. Maybe they will be a bit more lenient. Can't complain about that.
  • I'm probably naive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:35PM (#26454827)
    But wouldn't it be more surprising if a team advising on the use of airwaves had no members with ties to companies who use airwaves?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by haystor (102186)

      No experience in the field only qualifies you to run the CIA.

    • Missing the point (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hax0r_this (1073148) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @04:50PM (#26456159)
      The surprising (and I don't think thats even the right word - perhaps "wrong") thing is not that the airwave advising team has members with ties to companies who use airwaves.

      According to TFA, Obama, who wants to delay the DTV switch, is doing so (at least in part) based on the input of someone who stands to directly profit from having the transition delayed.

      Why: It would seem that this Salemme guy is a Clearwire executive. Verizon, in an attempt to compete with Clearwire, spent $9.4 billion to be allowed to use the spectrum that analog TV is currently on. Obama, on the advice of Salemme, wants to deny Verizon use of that chunk of spectrum, preventing them from competing effectively with Clearwire.
  • rofl (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Do you honestly expect Obama to hand pick his entire staff?
  • an old adage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:38PM (#26454883)

    Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity. As complicated as politics are and as interconnected as this world is, there's bound to be things that are overlooked. Of course, if you or I were becoming president, we wouldn't make such mistakes, eh?

    • by Belial6 (794905)

      Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.

      That quote is designed to cover the ass of smart malicious people. It gets repeated by the malicious to excuse their behavior, and by the stupid to try and make them feel smart. That being said, there are many mistakes that don't require stupidity or malice. I don't know enough of the man, or his position to know if what category the situation falls into, or if it is even a problem at all.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:40PM (#26454909) Journal

    .... viewers switched over to support the economy (re: advertisers)?

    • that's my take on it, I'm guessing there's still countless millions who haven't purchased their converter box yet... dont ya just love when people try to product their own scandal! its so... scandalous!
  • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:41PM (#26454915)
    Yeah. It's terrible when political officials in high positions make decisions that conflict with their real world corporate jobs. *coughcheneyhalliburtoncough*
    • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:52PM (#26455143) Journal

      Yeah. It's terrible when political officials in high positions make decisions that conflict with their real world corporate jobs. *coughcheneyhalliburtoncough*

      What's the relevance of bringing up Cheney in this manner? Surely your argument isn't that the Bush Administration did it so now the Obama Administration should do it as well?

      • You don't find probably the most blatant example of a political official making decisions while a conflict of interest existed to be relevant to the discussion? This example doesn't put something like a tertiary official being involved in the decision on when the US should switch to digital television into perspective?
  • by flaming error (1041742) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:41PM (#26454921) Journal

    I'm all for rooting out scandals and Truth, Justice, and The American Way, but when you run the government, you can either pick people who've done things, or who you really like. And people who have done things will have prior relationships with other people, organizations, and businesses.

    Let's judge POTUS on what he does, not on what his contacts or their contacts might want.

    Delaying the deadline is a dumb idea. We make deadlines so everybody can plan the switch. This transition has been planned for a long time. It's been heavily advertised. The switch will be painful for lots of poor folks who can't afford new equipment or who are bedridden and can't go shopping, but delaying the transition won't change that cold reality.

    Keep the train on schedule, Obama.

    • by bendodge (998616)

      What if they're oil contacts?

      • If they are oil contacts, and POTUS initiates a baseless war in an oil-rich country, and then grants no-bid contracts to those oil contacts, I'd say the no-bid contracts smell real corrupt. But the smell of thousands of corpses would bother me much, much more.

        Hypothetically speaking.

    • I'm all for rooting out scandals and Truth, Justice, and The American Way

      Well we've managed to root out 3 of the 4... ;)

  • Hay, at least it isn't Verizon. Everyone has been in their pockets, and we all know that if it were up to Verizon, there would be no WiFi, no WiMax, and we'd still be using unshielded untwisted copper pairs for our (AOL-based metered) Internet. In my opinion, someone with ties is fine, as long as it isn't Verizon. Anyone but them.
  • So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai ... m minus language> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:42PM (#26454939) Homepage Journal

    Barack Obama's call to delay the DTV transition would affect not only millions of analog TV viewers, but also powerful companies with a vested interest in the changeover date--including at least one with an executive on Obama's transition team.

    That doesn't mean an issue does not exist. Just because some big company is going to benefit from a delay in DTV rollouts, does that mean we should cut off our nose to spite our face?

    President Elect Obama has a reasonable argument that the market is not ready for DTV. I personally think that it will never be ready for the DTV changeover and that we'll need to do it the hard way anyway, but that's just my opinion. The government had a specific way they wanted this done. They have yet to achieve that goal.

    Specifically, many consumers are still unaware of the changeover, or believe that they will need a new television or cable/satellite provider to continue receiving service.

    Until the FCC gets much closer to achieving their goals for this changeover, Mr. Obama has a reasonable point.

    • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Totenglocke (1291680) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:49PM (#26455087)

      "Specifically, many consumers are still unaware of the changeover, or believe that they will need a new television or cable/satellite provider to continue receiving service."

      Are you kidding me? For the small percentage that don't have cable / satellite, how could you possibly miss the unending (and extremely irritating) ads on all the main broadcasting stations about the change, how to know if you'll need to get a converter box, where to get one, how to get a discount / free one, and where to find more information if you still have questions? Anyone who's still unaware or confused about things has something seriously wrong with them to have missed out on this for the last year or else never uses a TV and as such it doesn't affect them anyways.

      • We Tivo everything, so those ads get skipped over. (:-)
        • Who the hell has TiVo, but not cable or satellite? What would you record?!

          Besides, the "ads" he's talking about are the kind that scroll across the bottom of the screen like stock tickers or NWS storm warnings. They occur during the show, so you can't skip them with TiVo (unless you want to miss your show along with it).

      • how could you possibly miss the unending (and extremely irritating) ads on all the main broadcasting stations about the change,

        Simple. It depends on your geographical location. The FCC focused on a few early-cutover areas to launch massive advertising campaigns. If you live in one of those areas, you've been annoyed to death over the changeover. If you happen to live in some other area (especially many of the rural areas the government is concerned about) you've probably seen a minimum of changeover commerc

        • by Shakrai (717556)

          If the government just makes the changeover, these folks will manage to find some smart young'un to help them get their TV working again.

          My understanding is (correct me if I'm wrong) that the analog stations aren't going to go dark right away anyway. They'll have messages up explaining why they've stopped transmitting and providing information about the DTV transition.

    • by bendodge (998616)

      So what if some people lose their TV program. If they're addicted to TV, logic would hold that they would have seen the DTV announcements plastered all over TV broadcasts (and even the TV's themselves). If not, well, maybe this will be a good splash of reality. A deadline is a deadline. This one was quite generous. I was almost ready to clap for government achieving something on schedule, and now Obama and you people show up. TV isn't like air or water. Nobody's going to keel over dead if they miss their so

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      President Elect Obama has a reasonable argument that the market is not ready for DTV. I personally think that it will never be ready for the DTV changeover and that we'll need to do it the hard way anyway, but that's just my opinion. The government had a specific way they wanted this done. They have yet to achieve that goal.

      This is how I feel too. Yes we will have to do it the "hard way", by requiring a switchover. However that day does not have to be Feb 17th come hell or high water, a couple month delay

      • by bendodge (998616)

        Funded from what? The government is out of money.

      • The government is going to take heat on the switchover whenever it happens. Better to do it next month, and place the blame on former administrations, than delay 6+ months and have the blame firmly land on this administration.
  • So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evil_aar0n (1001515) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:42PM (#26454941)

    We've already ruled out the possibility that there _might_ just be a consumer-beneficial reason for pushing back the changeover date? I mean, because it's political, it _has_ to be so someone or some company can game the system and reap megabucks?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:47PM (#26455029)

    Having RTFA...

    Salemme is not actually an adviser to Obama. He met with Senator Rockefeller and Tom Wheeler (one of Obama's many advisers) last week. He also donated some money to the Obama campaign. That appears to be the sum total of his involvement. Not very compelling evidence that he is behind the policy, if you ask me.

    The assertion that he is a transition team member appears to be outright false.

  • by pembo13 (770295) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:49PM (#26455069) Homepage

    Can anyone educate me on why a mandated cutting analog is a requirement of DTV?

    • by Leto-II (1509) <slashdot,4,tobye&spamgourmet,com> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:54PM (#26455197)

      Can anyone educate me on why a mandated cutting analog is a requirement of DTV?

      The spectrum that analog TV uses was sold off so that companies like Verizon could use it for a new wireless network service. Can't really do that while analog TV broadcasts are still using the spectrum.

    • by sesshomaru (173381) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @04:02PM (#26455339) Journal

      I know that seems counterintuitive, but the answer is ultimately fairly simple if you look at the politics behind the DTV switch. A while back, the US government (Clinton Era) decided to sell off the public airwaves to various companies. Of course, in order for these companies to take control of these airwaves and use them for cellphones and what-have-you the analog signal had to be cleared from the airwaves.

      The only reason the government was able to do this was with a partially funded mandate, which was to force all analog signal consumers and all analog signal broadcasters to switch to a digital signal. The reason why that would work because in theory you could compress the same number of broadcast stations into the smaller remaining bandwith, provided that they were digitally encoded signals that would be decoded by a digital reciever.

      So, the answer to your question is this, this isn't about DTV. This is about a problem that the government created of having sold the analog spectrum that is currently being used for analog TV broadcasts to companies that want to use something else. The government believes that a DTV switchover is the solution to this problem, so they are trying to get the majority of consumers and broadcasters to switch to DTV as soon as possible. That's why they are giving away coupons from the Commerce Department, and running ADs that say "you must switch to DTV."

      I also believe that a lot of retailers were hoping that the confusion created in non-technical users regarding DTV was going to drive HD-TV sales, but that's a totally seperate issue.

      Of course, the economy doesn't look quite the same now as it did when this switchover was originally mandated for 2009, and that's probably the real reason why there is talk of delaying the changeover.

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:52PM (#26455137)
    The biggest reason for a delay should have been thought out years ago. You don't want people up on their rooftops in mid-February adjusting their antennas after the switchover.

    Even if you do have a converter box, or and HDTV with an antenna, you still don't know what you will be able to receive until after the transition, because some stations will move their broadcast frequency. Also, once the analog broadcasts stop, you'll be able to receive some fringe signals that were overwhelmed by them.
    • by TheSync (5291)

      You don't want people up on their rooftops in mid-February adjusting their antennas after the switchover.

      And you really don't want to get the job of going up a mountain-top 500 foot tower during the winter to move/adjust a TV transmitter antenna/feedline!

      While most stations have a DTV signal up, it is usually on a different antenna from the analog signal, and many stations are planning to remove their analog antenna and/or move their DTV antenna to a better position post-cut-off.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @04:18PM (#26455599) Homepage

    This guy may have an interest in the outcome, but he and Obama have a point: the public isn't ready for the changeover, and won't be until those coupons are in their hands (and maybe not even then, but they'll have the coupon for the box and if they choose not to use it that's their problem). It sounds to me like delaying the changeover for a month or two to give time to fund the coupon program is in the public interest. It'll hurt some companies and benefit others, but it seems to me that the only problem would be if the government decided to not delay the change because of the effects on those companies if they did. Unless someone can come up with a good argument why having analog TV broadcasts go dark for apparently a significant fraction of viewers is in the public interest (I think you could make that argument, but it'd require things from the companies that they aren't currently doing).

    • by nabsltd (1313397) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @04:41PM (#26456021)

      This guy may have an interest in the outcome, but he and Obama have a point: the public isn't ready for the changeover, and won't be until those coupons are in their hands (and maybe not even then, but they'll have the coupon for the box and if they choose not to use it that's their problem).

      That is, in reality, the actual problem.

      Theoretical funding for the coupons has run out, but that's assuming all coupons are redeemed. There are quite literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth that have not been. Although it is extremely unlikely they will be, the goverment can't just issue more coupons without money behind them.

      The correct solution is just to have Congress allow another $100M or so of coupons to be printed, with the caveat that all coupons (even those previously issued) must be redeemed by March 1, 2009 (or some other very near, hard cutoff date).

      Also, I really hated the fact that anybody could ask for coupons. I know people who have already invested over $10K in HDTV equipment who asked for them. I don't know if they used them, but it seems silly to me that they would, since they can only be used to purchase basically inferior devices (limited to 480i output). But, those coupons count against the budget.

Business is a good game -- lots of competition and minimum of rules. You keep score with money. -- Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari

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