Response – DTV Switchover – TV Manufacturers

For those of you haven’t heard, 681 of the 1,800 TV channels will stop broadcasting in analog next Tuesday, despite the legislative delay for June 12th, 2008.

An article in the San Jose Mercury News called the delayed DTV switchover “a victory for the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, who maintain that the previous administration mismanaged efforts to ensure that all consumers – particularly poor, rural and minority Americans [sic]”.

I don’t see it as a political victory, but an attempt to postpone something that will darken the TVs of millions of people in the U.S. and cause a lot of electronic waste down the road.

The FCC and Congress approved the DTV switchover in 1996 and 1997 respectively, and the DTV date was set in 2006. TV manufacturers have known the switchover was coming for 10 years, so can someone explain why they took so long to make compatible televisions? Why they kept selling TVs that would become unusable without a converter box in just a few years?

On March 1st 2007, TV manufacturers had to stop shipping to the U.S. TVs that weren’t digital-ready, but retailers could still sell the incompatible TVs they had in stock. So, a lot of people just bought a TV last year that will now need a converter box or replacement. Now, millions of consumers will have to buy new TVs or purchase converter boxes; that shouldn’t have been necessary, but will now put a heavy burden on the poor and the environment as analog TVs flood the electronic waste pipeline. Not to mention the eventual waste of the converter boxes.

SVTC’s interest in this has not only been the impact on low-income and communities of color, but the amount of e-waste that will be created. The memories of those in India dismantling e-waste still haunts me (some of these memories capture in the Citizens at Risk video, which you can preview at YouTube).

The delay doesn’t impact how we handle the e-waste, but I can only hope that people will use the extra time to think about their options a little more.

lauren Ornelas
Campaign Director
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition

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