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FROM THE EDITOR
Standard TV to Become Obsolete
by JR Dieckmann

On February 17, 2009 your standard TV will go blank. That is if you have not prepared for the conversion to digital TV and are still using an antenna to receive over the air broadcasts.

Congress has ruled that radio frequencies used by broadcast TV since itís inception will be taken away from private broadcasters and some will be reassigned for use by emergency responders and other public safety agencies. The remaining available frequencies will be auctioned off to the highest bidder by the FCC. Auctioned off?

This brings to mind the question of how can the government sell something that it does not own? Public airwaves have always belonged to the people. The FCC has the responsibility of regulating those airwaves but it does not own them. Now Congress thinks it does. Another assumed power of ownership by our government?

If a private company buys radio frequencies from the FCC, does that mean that they now own those frequencies and they are no longer the public airwaves, and no longer regulated by the FCC? What if that company chooses to sell their purchase of airwaves back to TV stations for analogue TV broadcasts? Would Congress be upset?

It seems the airwaves have become as crowded and congested as airline routes today and more space is needed to keep up with growing demands. Standard (analogue) TV broadcasts require a great deal more bandwidth than do digital broadcasts. The TV broadcast spectrum can be greatly reduced by the conversion to digital TV, which can provide several channels using the same frequency instead of using an entire frequency band for one channel as is the case with analogue TV broadcasts.

Current Ďover the airí broadcasts require separate frequencies for left and right audio channels, video luminance, red, green, blue colors, sync pulses, etc. To provide the color picture and sound, broadcasters must transmit various signals on different frequencies simultaneously to provide you with the video composite and stereo sound. Surround sound requires even more. The result is that just one TV channel uses as much bandwidth as the entire FM radio band.

All TVs being manufactured today are required to be equipped with digital tuners along with their standard analogue tuner. Some pre digital TVs are still available in stores but are required to display a warning that they will not receive the standard broadcast signals after February 17, 2009. After that date, TVs will no longer include analogue tuners at all.

This change will effect only one in 5 American households still Ďusing over the airí antennas for their TV reception. It will not effect those using cable or satellite TV, at least not yet. Eventually, all cable and satellite signals will become digital, requiring that set top converters be updated. You wonít have to purchase a new TV.

Electronics manufacturers, such as LG Electronics, are currently developing converters for use with older TV sets without digital tuners. The target price for these converters will be about $60.00. This is fine for home TV sets but what about portable TVs with built in antennas and mobile TVs in cars and SUVs? My battery operated emergency TV I keep in the closet will no longer function after February 17, 2007 - and neither will yours if you have one.

Democrats in Congress who passed this ruling are afraid that itís going to upset their low income constituents. "I have a great apprehension that a great mess lies before us," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., said.

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) put it even better: "If we don't get this transition right, then (we will be) dealing with constituents. The government has broken their TV sets."

So they have come up with a plan. They decided to allocate 1.5 billion of our tax dollars to subsidize the purchase of digital converters for consumers. Every American household will be eligible for two government coupons worth $40.00 each toward the purchase of digital converters. These coupons will be available to everyone between Jan. 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009 whether they need them or not, not just to low income households.

Thatís funny. I donít remember being offered coupons by the government when cassettes replaced the 8-track player or when CDs replaced the phonograph record. This would seem to be just another liberal handout by Congress to appease Democrat voters and provide another excuse for Congress to tax and spend.

They justify this taxpayer expense by claiming that people need these converters for emergency broadcasts. If thatís the case then why didnít the government buy them their TV in the first place? Did they forget that emergency broadcasts are also available on the radio? If people can afford to spend several hundred dollars for their TV entertainment, wouldnít you think they could spend $60 for their safety?

If you have cable or satellite service you wonít be effected by this change but in time youíre going to want to upgrade your cable or satellite receiver to digital. The total conversion to digital canít be far off.

This is simply another step in the technical progress of our nation. Out with the old and in with the new. This is just the first time that government has subsidized consumers to pay for it. What will be next? Subsidizing consumers to buy hybrid automobiles to prevent ďman madeĒ global warming?

Sources

Lawmakers Uneasy About Digital TV Switch

Digital Dilemma

The Transition to Digital TV