CCAGW to Congress: Accelerate Transition to Digital Television | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

CCAGW to Congress: Accelerate Transition to Digital Television

Press Release

For Immediate ReleaseContact:Tom Finnigan/Lauren Cook
February 17, 2004(202) 467-5300

 

(Washington, D.C.) – The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) today urged Congress to set a specific deadline for broadcasters to transfer signals from analog to digital spectrum.  The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet today held a hearing on achieving such a deadline.  CCAGW President Tom Schatz issued the following statement:

Current government policy stifles a speedy transition to higher quality television for consumers and encourages the wasting of public resources.  The 1996 Telecommunications Act and the 1997 Balanced Budget Act required all broadcasters to transmit digital signals to the public by May 1, 2003 and return their analog spectrum to the government by the end of 2006 for auction.  However, a loophole delayed the turnover for broadcasters that could demonstrate that less than 85 percent of households in their market had digital televisions.  This created a chicken-and-egg dilemma as broadcasters stalled in switching signals and consumers remain reluctant to purchase digital television sets.  By dragging their feet, broadcasters are keeping the price of digital televisions artificially high and are wasting billions of dollars worth of digital spectrum that Congress freely gave them to ease the transition. 

This amounts to a titanic waste of public resources.  As broadcasters continue to squat on analog spectrum, digital spectrum sits idle.  Meanwhile, there are wireless companies willing to pay at auction for the analog spectrum to provide new advanced services to consumers.  Public safety officials, such as firemen and police officers, are being denied the analog spectrum they were promised. 

Announcing a firm transition date will hatch the egg of market forces that will guide this dramatic technological evolution.  The main concern in Congress is the high cost of digital equipment for the 20 million households that rely exclusively on analog broadcasts.  But digital television remains expensive precisely because digital broadcasts remain scarce.  A transition date will stimulate consumer demand that will drive down costs.  The market will find a way to accommodate these 20 million households in a variety of ways, including converters, rebates, and other low-cost incentives.  Some in Congress are proposing a subsidy for low-income households to purchase digital television sets.  But that is like asking the government to buy everyone a DVD player because Blockbuster no longer rents VHS tapes.    

The government has mismanaged valuable public resources for too long.  Digital spectrum offers better television for consumers and analog spectrum could be put to more efficient uses while providing billions of dollars at auction to help reduce the record $427 billion budget deficit.  It is time for a firm deadline for transition to a digital signal.   

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste is the lobbying arm of Citizens Against Government Waste, the nation's largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

 

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