The Spectacle Blog

Three Cheers for the Idiot Box

By on 12.20.05 | 9:24AM

Here's your Congressional outrage for the day:

Congress just approved $1.5 billion for a changeover from analog cable to digital cable:

...The legislation would provide each household with up to two coupons worth $40 each for converter boxes to attach to analog television sets so they are not obsolete once broadcasters surrender their analog licenses on Feb. 17, 2009, as the new law would require.

This is not to say that the federal government finds an important security asset in a wide variety of cable programming that provides topics of interest and fun for the whole family -- they just want to make sure that television is available for everyone:
But consumer groups said the money allocated for the program, $990 million to $1.5 billion, would not be nearly enough for all of the analog television sets and that, in any event, many consumers would still need to pay $20 or more to upgrade each television set in their home that is not connected to a cable or satellite service.
That's right, Congress is giving people money to upgrade their televisions, and what more, some folks feel it's not enough. Which is why this isn't surprising:
The consumer groups and some Democrats had preferred a version of the measure adopted by the Senate Commerce Committee two months ago that would have provided $3 billion for converter boxes.

This has all been instigated by the industry's desire to find a more cost-effective method of broadcasting:
The cable companies have sought legislation that would allow them to convert digital signals back into analog signals before transmitting them into homes, which would be far less expensive than replacing set-top boxes in each residence. ... The House legislation will raise billions of dollars for the federal Treasury from auctions for spectrum licenses that must be surrendered by broadcasters.
None of this really justifies why we're handing out government coupons for converter boxes -- perhaps a converter box factory has just retained a few lobbyists. Whatever the case though, the New York Times is quick to remark why it's so important to auction these licenses:
The government estimates that those auctions, which will begin in 2008, could raise at least $10 billion for the Treasury as it faces growing deficits from the war in Iraq, hurricane damage in the South and the new program to produce vaccines for the avian flu.
In short: It's okay for us to give you money to buy a new TV, because George W. Bush has ruined our country, and we need to show you how.
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