Wednesday, October 19, 2005

New Digital Divide

Subsidize analog TV conversion: senator
Blu-Ray winner in DVD war: industry group

We're moving toward a new digital divide in this country, between people who care about the developments chronicled in the two articles above--and can afford to buy fancy new TVs to take advantage of them--and people who view TV as a mere link to the outside world, essential to have but not worth spending extra for quality.

While I'm on the former side of this divide, I do have sympathy for the latter: The government is planning to make it impossible for you and your old TVs to receive a signal without buying an adapter. If you cared enough about TV to get yourself a digital adapter, and could afford one, you'd just get a new TV!

Of course, government could have solved this problem. It could have told TV makers that they could not sell analog-only TVs after a certain date--a date that should have been set a few years ago. It could have made it clearer to consumers that the cheap analog TVs they were buying in the last few years would become useless without an adapter soon. In exchange for deregulation, it could have required cable companies to offer a low-cost basic package that would ensure that even those on fixed incomes could receive what's currently available over the air, or mandated a special rate for people on Social Security who purchase the lowest tier cable package. (Clearly, if you can afford HBO, you can afford to pay what the cable companies are charging.)

But government, knowing full well that this deadline was looming, did nothing. And a lot of people bought a lot of TVs that will require adapters as a result. Which, apparently, the government will provide. Even I don't like this kind of big government.

At least it looks like the DVD format war will be won by the better competitor. Apparently--much as it pains me to admit this--there are some situations where market forces can work without getting government involved.


Anonymous said...

The DVD format war is not yet over (and Forrester changes their outlook on things like this all the time). Moreover, are you really sure you know what the superior format is?

Anonymous said...

PS: don't necessarily believe what's said in the links I posted either... I'm just pointing out that these things are much more complicated than they might initially seem (BluRay better cuz stores more data).

You can find the same types of tradeoffs and poor conventional wisdom in DVD-Audio and SACD and they myriad of HDTV technologies.