Roughly one month from now, on February 17, the world of TV is going digital. This will have several effects. Here's one I didn't think of:
As consumers upgrade, they will be looking to ditch their old sets and few will be discarded properly. "There will be a disposal problem," predicts Rob Enderle, principal of Enderle Group, San Jose, Calif. TVs, he says, will be dumped all over the place.
Wow, the mind's eye does the rest. Old RCAs sitting forlornly beside a post box. Those wainscotted cabinets (room for a turntable and a wet bar!) materializing in the middle of a WalMart parking lot. Rabbit ears and aerials all over the place.
It is a documentary film maker's dream come true. And a nice way to offer us a contemplation of the transition from old media to new media, recycling, the ceaseless turnover of technology,and the relentless pace of change. There's going to be old tech everywhere. It's found film. "Poignant," "stirring," "deeply troubling." Are these not the adjective that every documentarian wants attached to her work?
Obama's White House wants to postpone the transition date. But if this doesn't happen, filmmakers have 36 days to collect crew, book equipment, and max out credit cards. And we will see you at the award ceremonies.
Hein, Kenneth. 2009. The Winners and Losers of the Digital Transition. Adweek Media. January 5, 2009, p, 21.
Thanks to Eric and his website on Vintage TV sets here.
A documentary about those left behind may be interesting. A friend has been volunteering to help the elderly in a rural region West of Chicago and reports many are very confused about the change, are out of range of a good digital tv signal (at 50 miles they can get analog tv, but forget about digital), and lack the money to use cable TV. He has had harrowing experiences trying to put together fringe reception packages for some of these. Some of the people he is talking to have decided TV will be beyond their means.
In my community 40 miles west of NYC it requires a very sophisticated antenna to get a signal and many areas are just impossible due to local hills. The cable company has a grandfathered low income/elderly plan that has VHF channels plus cable news and HSN for about $15 a month, but the next step up is $40 a month. It has not been possible for someone to get or downgrade to the $15 plan for several years.
Analog television sets have often been used in shows as a signifier of a family/character’s socioeconomic status. Rabbit ears and wooden consoles don’t exactly scream “early adopters.” I’ve been wondering, when the digital transition takes place, will antenna-ridden TV sets still be used as a visual indicator of income and class level?
Visually speaking, it’s a very iconic image, but after having to undergo the inconvenience of purchasing a DTV converter box or a new television all together, will viewers see this image as even plausible?
I’ve included two links to screencaps from My Name is Earl.
if this switch to digital TV goes anything like the switch to digital recordings perhaps there will emerge a very niche hipster market for rabbit eared analog TV’s (assisted by a digital converter box) a decade down the road…not unlike what happened with 8 tracks, which went from being the detritus of rec rooms to coveted collector’s items. in the mid 90’s russ forster, a documentarian from chicago, made the ultimate film about those with ‘8 track minds’, called “so wrong they’re right”. the trailer can be found on you tube and is worth a few minutes of your time.
Check out http://www.flickr.com/photos/aarkangel/3200105706/ and the Goodbye Old TV Group that inspired it at http://www.flickr.com/groups/goodbyeoldtv/pool/ set up by Sarah Platt who’s been on the case since 2007
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