by Knute Berger
Just like in the old TV series The Outer Limits, I am about to lose control of my television set. As a consequence of a government mandate to switch to digital broadcasting by Friday, June 12, my analog set is about to go blank. Like millions of others folks, I haven’t bothered to buy a converter box, a new digital TV, or subscribe to a cable or satellite provider. I’ve been warned for months, but each time I’ve ignored preparing for the inevitable. The talking heads explaining it all just seemed like one more infomercial. Click.
I’m technologically lazy too. I’ve never been able to get my rabbit ears to work very well, so I’ve just gotten used to fewer channels or watching the evening news through a blizzard of electronic snow. Buying and hooking up a converter seems like one chore too many. If the federal government wants to do something for me, how about sorting my recycling or vacuuming the dust bunnies from under the bed?
I don’t fit the profile of non-adopters outlined in the New York Times, where Michael J. Copps, acting head of the FCC, says “the people most likely to lose reception are societyâs most vulnerable — lower-income families, the elderly, the handicapped, and homes where little or no English is spoken. The transition will also hit inner-city and rural areas hardest.”
To tell the truth, my consumption of broadcast TV has been in a downward spiral for decades. Programming is often available online, and much local content, especially news, is dreadful. In recent times, when I needed info during weather emergencies, radio did a better job of providing up-to-date reports anyway. There’s not much else of use on the local evening news since my appetite for stories about apartment fires in Burien is easily sated.
I have resisted cable because of cost, but more significantly because of personal weakness, a susceptibility to wasting time in front of a TV with so many channels to choose from. I’m someone who can over-indulge at a buffet even if it’s the Royal Fork.
Cable TV holds out hope that there’s something wonderful just a few clicks away. I can waste hours in a hotel room just clicking through all the 100-plus cable channels, lost in an endless gyre of anticipation, hoping that something more than sports, cable shopping, movies you’d never rent, and TV preachers is a channel away.
Which isn’t to say I won’t still watch TV: I can see Conan or Colbert highlights online, broadcast and cable clips at Huffington Post, Seattle Channel or KCTS websites. I didn’t need broadcast TV to learn about international talent competition phenom Susan Boyle. I found her on YouTube. I much prefer watching TV series on DVD, which allows you to avoid the ads and watch a whole season’s worth in a weekend. You’re a year or so behind everyone else for Mad Men, In Treatment or Battlestar Galactica, but you don’t have to wait for installments. I got lost watching Lost; I’ll catch up when it’s out on disc. If I still care after a year.
Former Gov. Gary Locke, now Secretary of Commerce, says he understands laggards like me. “There are so many people who are always waiting until the last minute, whether it is college students doing term papers, or people filing taxes, or people like me who wait until Christmas Eve to do their shopping,” he said recently. Of the 10 million or so households that aren’t ready for digital TV, a few will panic. But for me, I’m content just to let the old medium end like the Sopranos — with a fade to black.
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