Transition Catalyst If you watched the final episode of the Sopranos last Sunday, there is one thing I can guarantee you will think about the next time you drive your SUV through large piles of leaves: don’t. In particular, you will remember the scene where Tony’s son’s SUV bursts into flames and then explodes because the catalytic converter, which Tony later screams is hot enough to grill steaks, ignites the leaves AJ has parked on. It was a powerful visual lesson that I suspect most SUV drivers will remember. The scene, and the resulting imprinted memory and message it left got me thinking about how powerful a medium television can be, and how simple it is to get messages across if they are clear and properly conveyed. Where am I going with all this? Well, I’m just bemused by all the hand wringing currently going on in Washington about the DTV Transition and all the studies lamenting that "the public" doesn’t yet know what is going to happen in February of 2009… that analog television sets will have to either be hooked up to cable or satellite or have an additional DTV tuner attached to them to continue to work. Now it comes as little surprise to me that folks in mid-’07 have not focused on early ’09, except, maybe, for the Presidential election! But should we worry about that now? Might it be a little too early to start polling people about their awareness of the ’09 trigger date when the boxes they will have to attach to their sets are not even manufactured yet? Regardless, politicians are grumbling and the FCC is issuing fines to television set manufacturers that are still trying to sell lots of analog sets without mentioning that they will stop working on their own in a couple of years. That’s fair. There should be prominent notices at points of purchase. But what about the broader campaign to actually explain what is going to happen, why, and what needs to be done, if anything, to keep watching television? Seems to me the folks with the most to lose are also the ones in the best position to step up to the plate and do something significant about educating the public about the transition: the broadcasters. Sure, the "public service announcements" and all the normal notification campaigns need to be done, and the cable industry as well as the broadcasters and the CE industry are all working together to produce that stuff. We are also working with the FCC to make sure the word gets out. But if there is a serious desire to make sure viewers get the message, then it seems to me the right catalyst, if you will, is to incorporate that message directly into the shows that folks are watching. Forget the PSAs. If the host of American Idol keeps reminding all the people who watch that show not only to cast their vote, but to remember to upgrade their set, if needed, or risk not being able to watch the grand finale in ’09… then the message has been delivered precisely to the population that needs to hear it. Of course, I am not just talking about one show. I’m talking about incorporating the message into lots of shows, for lots of demographics. It would be cheap, easy, timely, useful and perfectly directed at television watchers. Getting this particular message out, it seems to me, should not be hard at all. A decision just has to be made to do it.

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