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Monday, December 13, 2010

The Digital Utopian Future Is Here!

Is it just me or does the new digital tee vee endlessly black out and skitter and pixillate, making it incomparably worse than the prevailing standards that preceded it? Just me, I'm sure. Everything is awesome now.


Lorraine said...

I'm guessing you're talking about OTA (over the air) digital TV. I was generally happier with analog. For folkx like me who like tuning in weak signals, if nothing else, for the sport of it, the 'transition to digital' has been a disaster. I feel walled in with the 9 Detroit channels, whereas I used to get Toledo routinely, with Lansing and Flint areas more than once in a while. One of the few positive things about life in Detroit is Canadian TV. Happily, Canada hasn't done the 'transition to digital' yet. They've given themselves a deadline of August 2011, but so far, outside of the very largest cities, they've done nothing toward that goal, so they will likely punt the football down the road as did Uncle Sham. All other things being equal, digital requires more antenna for a given signal level. Many consumers, after receiving 'free' converter boxes, found they needed to spend $100 or more on antennas just to get local channels. Every now and then I get a propagation gift either from sunspots or fog and digital stations from Cleveland come in, clear as a bell. I never picked up Cleveland in analog. So, the outliers of reception conditions are more extreme at both ends with digital.

From the public policy angle, I'm nothing short of disgusted. I understand the importance of efficient use of spectrum, but my love of digital TV ends there. First of all, "recall that Gregory Bateson defined information as a difference that makes a difference; if there is no difference, there is no information." (Sound familiar? ;-) Having multiple channels airing what was back in the day a weekly network series, now in syndication five days a week, sometimes twice or more a day, means running the whole series in a couple of months, then repeat ad nauseam. I have nothing against a 'retro' channel or two, but it would be more authentic if series were aired once a week. Repetition is the antithesis of information. And of course the commercials on the new digital sub-channels are of the most despicably low rent sort. Easily half are either Medicare "Advantage" vendors or "durable medical equipment" firms whose business model is equally parasitic on Medicare. The other half are the sordid assortment of "debt settlement" firms and attorneys of the ambulance-chasing type. If I were making the policy, I would have broken up the 6 MHz channels among several broadcasters, with the low-def sub-channels reserved for low-budget broadcasters (hopefully not all of which turn out to be televangelical). I also feel absolutely used on account of they decided on a proprietary format for encoding. Would it absolutely kill them to just broadcast in OGG? We also had a near miss with the 'broadcast flag,' which for now is not used in over the air TV. It's basically a DRM for the airwaves, telling your video recording device which shows are 'off limits.'

Short answer? It's yet another example of enclosure of the commons.

jollyspaniard said...

I don't bother with television. My housemate has a tiny black box plugged into his largescreen that accepts USB flash memory. I download any programming/movies I want to watch onto my laptop transfer them to a 8 gig flash memory stick and plug it in.

We do watch quite a few arthouse type flicks but I also download a lot of braindead telly too. Once you get into the habit of watching what you've chosen to watch when you choose to watch it it's hard to go back to flicking on the telly and channel surfing.

Dale Carrico said...

Most of my students seem to do much the same. I don't know how it happened, but I think inertial media consumption habits caused me to miss a radical transition as it happened in an eyeblink, and I'm like, you know, this old geezer, or one of those dinosaurs they always show in the graphic accompanying documentaries about extinction level events, languidly raising my giraffe neck, my mouth munching at some grass, while an asteroid with a fiery tail shrieks across the horizon overhead...