Tuesday, February 17, 2009

your television signal

For many years in the US and Canada, there was not television twenty-four hours a day. The programming would begin with a sign on, and end with a sign off. NBC had a Today, and a Tonight show; this, often, bracketed an affiliate station’s day. Beyond that, there was often a performance of the national anthem, and the very first, and last thing--the picture of supra, or similar. Sometimes, this would persist for a few seconds, and sometimes, through the early morning hours, sometimes with the sound of static, or a high pitched squeal. It was simple, coherent and ritualistic. What else could have been done? A fellow to tell you to shut the television off, or to unplug it?

It is the public
’s airwaves. There is commercial licensing. In Britain people pay a television and radio tax. In the US, the appliance is bought with just local sales taxes; but the government grants licenses to private companies to broadcast, broadcast in the public’s interest. The Federal Communications Commission, since 1934, has regulated the radio signal. The radio signal includes television, and mobile phone signals. And because of the latter, being a new, and profitable, and ever, more, ubiquitous presence. It was decided to take away the free analog signals, and sell or give them to the new industry, in disregard of the public’s ownership.

A chief actor in this was, the recent chairman, who did not want to relinquish his post under the new administration, Kevin Martin. He had been chairman, since 2005, and a commissioner since 2001. He received these benefices after being the Deputy General Counsel to Bush-Cheney 2000, and member of the Florida vote scandal team.

He was investigated for his manner of conducting business by Congress:
“Chairman Martin’s heavy-handed, opaque, and non-collegial management style has created distrust, suspicion, and turmoil among the five current commissioners.” -- Congressional Report 9 Dec. 2008
It was readily found, that he withheld, and manipulated, evidence from his fellow commissioners, the Congress, and the public. His goal was to deregulate everything. This, in practice means, to serve the greatest monetary interests, and damn the law, and the public. He was a very, successful, Republican lawyer; very arrogant, and dismissive, and without scruples.

In this light, and in the lessons of history, it is easy to see, that it is not the public that will benefit, in the switch from analogue to the new, high, definition signal. In the short term: it has been the appliance industry. They have sold more televisions, sooner than replacement opportunities would have opened up, and the new gadgets to retrofit, some of, the older sets. In other countries, e.g. Japan, the switch was made without obsolescence. In the long term: private companies which will be given the old signal frequencies.

Some people, meaning the impoverished, shant have the new equipment. Democrats in Congress, and the president, have suggested a delay to June. It seems some 680 stations of the country’s nearly 1800 stations will drop the analog signal to-day. This delay was objected to by the out-going Martin.

This Martin has collected many paychecks. He has also worked for Wiley Rein LLP.
A major client of Wiley Rein is Verizon. Martin’s wife has worked for: John Cornyn, Donald L. Evans and Dick Cheney. What a nexus of dollars and interests!

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