Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 240
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for May 13, 2004

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

I recently read an article about the oncoming digital TV juggernaut. The government has decided that typical broadcast TV isn’t good enough for us, so it’s requiring all stations to switch over to a new broadcast medium. Naturally, our existing sets won’t receive digital signals, so we’ll all have to buy new TVs or conversion boxes for our old TVs. Naturally, the new TVs will cost more and reception on the old ones likely will not measure up, even with the boxes. So, we’ll have to pay a new entertainment “tax” – I call it a tax because it’s not voluntary.

The change is going to cost the TV industry a lot, as well. We’ve read that CMSU’s little TV station, KMOS, has already spent over $5 million on their conversion, with another million to go. This is taxpayer money. Multiply it by the public TV stations across the country and it adds up to real money. Commercial stations will have to pay the freight from their investors or advertising money, whether they want to or not.

I guess that government-mandated entertainment standards, whether technical or content-related, rub me the wrong way. I don’t see why the free market couldn’t dictate the transition to digital TV. That worked with the choice between VHS & Beta for VCRs, Windows and OS2 for computer operating systems, etc. I realize that many people will say that the market made an inferior choice in those cases, but virtually any economic choice made by the market will be superior to one dictated by government.

The sad thing is that much of the money spent by KMOS to increase its viewing area will be squandered as more and more people get their TV programming via satellite – where KMOS doesn’t exist.

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