congress is missing wheel of fortune

You probably already knew this — bu the government is made up of complete idiots.

I wrote a post last summer that proved the Feb 17th digital TV switch had been promoted enough that a 3-year old could understand what was coming. (literally)

But now that warm Obama glow has caused Congress (the opposite of Progress, as Nipsy once said) to push the switch back to June.

Sure — there were some issues with the converter box coupons. But after a MAJOR overkill of promoting the Feb 17th switch, if people weren’t ready — they were never going to be ready. And when they found out on Feb 18th that their procrastination had caused them to miss out on the wonderful thought provoking programming of network TV, they would have made the appropriate preparations.

Now — what it will be — is a case of the little boy who cried wolf. People won’t believe the June date either.

Just rip the BandAid off.

fidel watches the price is right

Surely, if you’re breathing and have watched any amount of TV in the last few months, you know that your over-the-air TV ain’t gonna work next February unless you take some steps. I got my “government cheese” digital TV conversion coupon a few months ago. Now instead of watching through periods of slight static, the show I’m watching is replaced momentarily by a completely dark screen with the words “searching for signal” on it. We’re on the cutting edge.

(Don’t get me started about the fact that I now have to hit 4 or 5 buttons to change channels — one of which is a decimal point that is located in the most un-ergonomic place on the remote.)

Our local stations have beat it into the ground with badly produced promos that run incessantly. In fact, every time the “digital conversion is coming in February of 2009. Will you be ready?” promo comes on, my three-year-old son says “we’re ready”. Because he knows the new box on top of the TV is what the promo is talking about.

So I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s so bloody simple that a 3-year-old can understand it. But, perhaps you’ve noticed in your daily life that there are some people walking around who aren’t this bright.

There are groups who are criticizing the government’s publicity efforts and are asking for more money to publicize the switch. And that’s insane. While it has been a typical bureaucratic fiasco, the message has been pushed about as far as a marketing campaign can go.

Plus there’s a good reason that the switch won’t be as painful as the detractors say it will be. The local TV stations aren’t going to let the little old ladies watching The Price Is Right disappear — because those little old ladies also love the dollar they get from Neilsen to fill out a diary. And in general, the local stations will correct the problem and bring all the stragglers of all ages on board for self-preservation economic reasons.

But some of the points addressed in the article make sense: Why is there an expiration for the coupons? I nearly let my 90 day window pass by and used it a few days before it expired. Government handouts shouldn’t expire! And it is hard to find the boxes now. I can imagine they’ll be very hard to find next February. And some people like the little old lady in the NYT story are just plain stubborn and won’t change until they’re forced to. (like in Cuba, she says.)

old media

There’s lots of buzz about today’s news of the FCC relaxing media ownership rules.

Five or ten years ago, I would have been incensed about the decision. If you look back in time, you’ll see that every time the FCC “relaxes” the rules, monopolistic control of the media takes a big leap. And I’m sure this time will be no exception.

However, with today’s news, I really could care less. And this decision only affects the top 20 markets. Small markets are ignored. Big whoop.

Five or ten years ago, traditional media were still the only real game in town. Monopolies needed to be avoided. It was a sacred privilege and responsibility to own a transmitter or a printing press. That immense power needed to be spread out.

But today, everyone is the media. One of my big money quotes in my speaking engagements is that now everyone owns a printing press through the publishing power of the web. You’re reading my latest edition right now.

I’m fascinated with how traditional media are struggling with the rapid changes that continue to pop up. They’re moving in slow motion. And they’re wasting time arguing about things that are secondary to the threat that’s facing them.

It’s almost like the horse buggy manufacturers arguing with each other while Model T’s zip by outside.

The danger is that I don’t think “new media” is ready to take over the watchdog responsibility from old media. There’s not enough experience there. There’s no accountability. And there’s a lack of legitimacy from the powers-that-be. (A blogger and a newspaper reporter ask for an exclusive interview with the mayor — who do you think gets it?)

There will be (and already is) a major backlash about this FCC decision. But it’s a waste of time. It’s not about who owns the pipes or how many pipes they own in any market. It’s not about who owns transmitters and printing presses.

Today, it’s about who owns the content that the masses want to consume. And they don’t care how it’s delivered to them.

Changes in Hitland

The buzz is always about how TV and print are changing with…or are threatened by the new digital world. You hardly ever hear anything about radio dealing with the new realities.

Maybe that’s because some have already written radio’s obit and just don’t worry about it anymore.

But some still figure that radio will always be there in some form. It’s an old argument. TV didn’t kill radio. FM didn’t kill AM. Portable media didn’t kill radio. Each time, radio has adapted and pulled through the threat. But it’s different this time. This time, the radio stations are going to kill radio.

If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you know that I am an “old” radio guy. I was regularly bathed in RF radiation for about 15 years. And once you’ve been in radio, the passion never really leaves you. In fact, on 4 separate occasions in my short life, I have been “this close” to purchasing a radio station (and in one case, I actually had the capital-in-hand to do it!) My love for the medium is one reason I’m disheartened by the course that it seems to be taking.

A great discussion about the way radio is going to have to cope comes from one of my favorite radio “thinkers”, Mark Ramsey. He recently did an interview with Seth Godin (about Seth’s new book, natch) that talked about the future of radio and the dangerous ledge on which it currently stands.

If the technology develops, I say Seth’s “Scenario A” will change not only radio, but everything. However, I agree that “Scenario D” is likely to be the one to emerge.

My favorite quote from the interview is:

Well, if radio is about the “how do I leverage my FCC license” business, you’re in trouble. But if instead you say, “how do I deliver multimedia to local users wherever they are”, then you win.

This is something that all media should take to heart. The current mindset of most media is like Pizza Hut worrying about the delivery guy’s car instead of the pizza. It’s not about the delivery method. It’s all about the content.

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UPDATE:: And even if you think they are a monopolistic gorilla, apparently Clear Channel is getting the message