DTV is a reality, but what is the impact of that reality, what does it mean for America technologically and socially? When analog signals were flipped off for the final time June 12th, it left 1-3 million households with static and a common sense estimate of that many more who thought they were ready but weren?t, and while the broadcasters are on TV admonishing the unprepared and touting the notice given to the public, in the coming months we will be faced with a new landscape of people cut off from the world. In an age with the message TV is bad for you, households electing not to watch television or let kids watch, we seem to have forgotten the necessary fixture that TV has become in all American lives. We seem to have forgotten that it isn?t just about our favorite prime time drama, sit-com or reality TV craze; it is also about news and weather. There are people out there now who won?t get there local weather reports because, if they didn?t have the $10-30 to purchase a converter box, they don?t have it to buy a radio, totally side stepping the fact that the most detailed information is given via the television. Persons with disabilities are at a huge disadvantage, if you are deaf and can?t hear a radio but can see weather maps and closed captioning on TV, if you are blind and can?t see it but get more details from television than the radio, details that can save a life. This also comes into play with missing channels; not getting basic, local ABC, NBC, and CBS local affiliates may mean you are not getting the most accurate weather for your area. We saw what devastation can come from mass communication failure in the days before and after hurricane Katrina, yet the government has no problem recreating that potential with its failed television transition on the same scale as some of NASA?s biggest embarrassments.
And now in a recession a source of free entertainment is also taken away, people striped of one more thing in troubled times. Socially this will come back on us ten fold; children now are seen as uneducated and ill-informed. Imagine in 2-5 years when they are cut off from the possibility of news in poorer households with no computer or internet in an age when the print newspaper is dying. Unlike homes where families elect to turn off the TV, poorer people cannot afford newspaper subscriptions, videos and educational materials to supplement their child?s learning; many do not have money, transportation to visit local libraries for these same items, libraries facing budget cuts and higher demand for materials due to the economy. Disadvantaged people are hit again as they likely live in unsafe neighborhoods where children cannot go outside and play, now they have one less thing to keep them occupied, have one less thing to keep older children from running the streets by watching their favorite program. Throughout history people have been able to have a part in major events via their television, the moon landing, Vietnam, fall of the Berlin wall, the war in Iraq; children knew about 9-11 because they saw glimpses on TV. This will inevitably trickle down to adults as well making them less in tune with the world around them, less aware of culture, less able to make basic choices about their lives; it elongates the gap between the haves and the have not?s literally taking the chance of making the latter completely ignorant of laws, medical advances, product recalls and a host of other things. We have socially and technologically taken people back 50 years; the difference between then and now is they won?t put more weather details on the radio or different types of talk radio out there to make up for a lack of TV. Those left behind are just left behind.