Saturday, August 29, 2009

Digital TV=Pork

Holy shit. Many thanks to wikipedia for confirming my suspicions about the DTV transition. This is a BIG deal.

A couple months ago, I sent a letter to each of Vermont's two senators, demanding to know the purpose behind the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005. I told both of them that I was tired of hearing these explanations that praised this as a move toward "greater access" to things like broadband internet. People are not stupid; when given the chance to really, really consider it, they generally realize that giving American citizens greater access opportunities really translates to giving corporations more access they can sell. What, beyond that, could these capable statesmen give me for an explanation?

The single response I received was a generic letter that seems to have been passed along to anyone writing about any aspect of the DTPSA; the gist of it was that--Oh my! What a surprise!--the transition will provide we Americans with greater opportunities for access to things like broadband internet. Did I or did I not make it clear, sir, that I have heard such answers before, and, to quote e.e. cummings, "there is some shit i will not eat"?

Well, tonight I decided to do a little digging, as long as I was looking into the matter of braodcast regulations anyway. I've always been puzzled by how suddenly this whole transition became big news late last fall. You would think that something as monumentuous as this-- "the most significant advancement of television technology since color TV was introduced," according to David Rehr, CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters--would have received a lot more attention in the media while it was being debated and discussed in Congress. Someone would have done a little digging, uncovered the story behind it. I don't know about anywhere else, but where I was living last year, nobody really knew what was happening until long about December. There had been some discussion in a vague way for a year or so before that, I guess, but not much coverage overall.

Well, tonight I think I may have made some sense of it. Tonight, my long-held suspicions that this whole thing was meant to benefit cable, satelite, and internet providers, and provide no real benefit to the common citizens, has been given more support. Check out the wikipedia page regarding the transition. Now, check out the law which Congress passed, of which the DTV transition was a small piece. Notice something a little fishy? Perhaps that this provision, regarding the switch to digital broadcasting of all major media sources, is a little...misplaced? Among provisions meant to reduce government spending for Medicare over the long term, and provisions for altering the repayment structures of student loans, there is an additional law requiring the switch to DTV. Feels a bit like that old Sesame Street bit about how oner of these things just doesn't belong, doesn't it?

What we have here is a blatant example of pork in a federal bill. Somebody, may they be run out of office by a mob brandishing rabbit-ear antennae, inserted that puppy into an unrelated piece of legislation. Most of us, I think, know why, too; in a spending bill of this nature, controversial enough with its Medicare cuts, who would take time to thoroughly investigate the add-ons? Who would have time to chase it down and discover the real beneficiaries of the program? Not the media, that's for sure. Not broadcasting corporations with stock in the cable, satelite, and internet companies. Not the supposed free press, which ought to serve as the watchdog against this kind of corruption, and as a source of information for an informed and participatory electorate. So, hello DTV. Goodbye, last semblance of responsible government.

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