|Markets on the bubble
[Today's MAG-Net National Day of Action is holding events in the following locations where the FCC and the NTIA have identified as needing special educational efforts in advance of the 6/12/09 DTV Transition]
Albuquerque-Santa Fe (both)
Minneapolis-St. Paul MN (both)
Louisville KY (FCC only)
Philadelphia PA (FCC only)
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose CA (both)
Seattle-Tacoma WA (both)
New York NY (FCC only)
(MAG-Net is also holding a DTV event today in San Antonio)
Metro group to offer DTV hook up help
On Friday, local community organizations will gather at the Midtown Global Market to assist the Twin Cities community in the transition to DTV.
The group is also calling on local retailers to join together to provide a ‘no-cost box’ solution for Minnesotans.
The event will start at 2 p.m. at 920 East Lake street in Minneapolis and will help connect individuals in the community who are unprepared for the digital switch.
Mosquito Productions, a local retailer from Blaine, will be on site to provide a no-cost converter box for people who already have the $40 coupons.
April 17, 2009Free Digital TV Converters Promise More Than Just Re-Runs
Minneapolis - A Minneapolis group is working to ensure the pending conversion to digital television won't put people in the dark. The Main Street Project is making digital converter boxes available at no cost to people who have federal government coupons. Most retailers offer converters that require some cost above the $40 coupon limit. Minneapolis is among eight cities holding events to help get the word out for those who haven't already made the switch.
Amalia Deloney, the Project's senior fellow, says many of the people still lacking converters are poor, disabled or don't speak English.
"It's very cost prohibitive for them to be able to afford a box and it's also challenging, because there's a lot of steps; whether it's applying for the coupon, or learning how to connect the box to your TV, or being able to go home with a box that we're calling a 'no-cost' box."
Of the eight participating cities, Minneapolis is one of only three offering boxes at no additional cost above the federal coupon. The event is part of the effort leading up to the June 11 deadline, after which many older TVs will need the converter in order to receive a broadcast signal.
Steven Renderos, project coordinator for the Minnesota Media Empowerment Project, says a TV signal is more important than its capacity to receive reality shows and sitcoms. Many people rely on local stations for important weather and emergency information, he says.
"Snow storms, tornado warnings, emergency situations. Especially in rural communities television ends up being the number-one source of information for a lot of these folks."
Supporters are gauging whether to stage additional events in other parts of the state. They're working with Blaine retailer Mosquito Productions to offer the no-cost converters.
The Minneapolis event begins at 2:00 p.m. inside the Midtown Global Market on Lake Street. Groups will make presentations in English, Spanish, Hmong and Somali. Only people with coupons will receive converter boxes at no cost. Others may apply for the coupons.
More N.M. retailers need a better approach to DTV transition
The June 12th date of the much discussed Digital Television (DTV) Transition looms nearer, but Nielsen Media reports that 3.8 million households are still not ready and 3.4 percent of all homes would no longer have any TV service at all if analog service disappeared today.
Though the federal government’s coupon program is back on track and people with expired coupons can now reapply, millions of people of color, poor and working class people, the elderly, and disabled communities remain unable to afford the costly converter boxes needed to maintain television access once broadcast signals are no longer available.
By now most people agree that the DTV Transition was poorly conceived. Still, the burden of the cost laid in the laps of the poorest consumers hasn’t really been sufficiently alleviated — even with the recent additional allocation of $600 million by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for education and coupons to subsidize the cost of converter boxes.
Why? Because enough retailers haven’t yet pulled up a chair to play a significant role in ensuring that there a no-cost converter box option exists that is fully covered by the $40 NTIA coupons.
The bad news is that converter boxes are priced between $50 and $200, and some retailers are more concerned with banking a profit than ensuring that the nation’s poorest aren’t threatened with the loss of basic television access simply because they can’t afford a converter box.
The good news is that there are some electronics retailers who understand that poverty should not prevent anyone from accessing basic news and information.
On April 17th local retailers here in New Mexico as well as in New York, Minneapolis, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Kentucky will participate in an unusual national campaign led by the community organizations of the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) to offer a “no cost” cost converter box option to consumers presenting NTIAA coupons. These converter boxes aren’t free, but they will cost no more than the amount of the coupon, thus demonstrating a significant commitment from retailers to play their part in ensuring a socially responsible digital television transition.
Best Buy and Fred Meyers retailers have already stepped up to the plate and the organizations of MAG-Net are taking steps to encourage Radio Shack, Wal-mart, and Target stores also do the right thing.
Partnering with local community groups, these electronic retailers proudly display their pledge to a socially responsible DTV transition in their window, the marker that a “no cost” box is available on their shelves.
Even more unusual, Mosquito Production, a small local retailer located in Minneapolis, Minnesota has taken an additional, positive step.
Not only has this store taken the “no cost” pledge, but they’ve also created two Web sites — one which gives consumers an online vehicle to order a “no cost” converter box, and another to facilitate those with extra NTIA coupons to donate them to people in need.
Going beyond the call of duty, Mosquito Productions has even partnered with Main Street Project, a local grassroots community organization, to design and print a “no cost box” T-shirt!
Two-thirds of people in the U.S. base their electoral and other political decisions on what they read, watch, and listen to in the news. For communities of color, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor, losing television access during the DTV Transition won’t simply mean the loss of luxury entertainment, rather it would signify the loss of access to basic information, news, and cultural ties — and would represent a violation of the fundamental right to free speech.
Designing a socially responsible digital television transition that leaves no part of our community behind has proved a serious challenge for the FCC, Congress, and the NTIA, but with the right retail and community partnerships — and the right government priorities — no community here in New Mexico has to lose out.
Omar Ahmed is director of community outreach for the Albuquerque-based New Mexico Media Literacy Project.
DTV day of action: it’s time for a socially responsible DTV transition
by Amalia Deloney and Jonathan Lawson, Media Action Grassroots Network
The transition to digital TV is coming on June 12 – after Congress granted an unprepared population a final extension from the previous date on Feb. 17. The country has been slowly getting ready for this transition since Congress passed the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act back in 2005, paving the way for broadcasters to end their decades of analog television transmissions and transition to more efficient digital technology. The bill gave the FCC the authority to reclaim swathes of broadcast spectrum for public safety and new wireless broadband services.
The June 12 date means changes for over-the-air TV viewers in the Seattle area, who are promised more channels and clearer signals, but who may also need new equipment to continue receiving the complete available range of free TV signals. Recognizing that low-income viewers shouldn't be unfairly taxed just to keep watching free TV, the government set up a program to provide free $40 coupons for people to apply towards the purchase of a DTV Converter box. As long as $40 boxes are available, people should be able to have a no-cost conversion.
The government's plan, however, had a flaw. While $40 boxes are available in some parts of the country and on the Internet, many local electronics retailers have chosen exploitation of a captive audience over a sense of social responsibility –and are refusing to carry the low-cost boxes.
Digital Justice in Washington State
That's why, on Friday April 17th, local community organizations will gather at Seattle Housing Authority's Center Park facility to mark a National DTV Day of Action. The events are part of a nationwide effort, the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net)’s “Socially Responsible DTV Transition Campaign.” Across the country (San Antonio, Minneapolis, New Mexico, Philadelphia, NYC, San Francisco Bay Area, and rural Appalachia), MAG-Net partner organizations will hold similar events to help community members with the transition to DTV, as well as calling on local retailers to provide a “no-cost box” option for local consumers.
City Councilmembers Richard Conlin and Bruce Harrell, along with Mayor Nickels and the rest of the City Council, wrote letters to local electronics dealers last January, asking retailers to provide local customers with a no-cost box option. To date, few local retailers have answered the community's call for affordable box options. While Fred Meyer has offered $40 boxes as a special promotion, enabling customers with government coupons to take home boxes basically for free (excluding taxes), the community and its elected officials were rebuffed by Target, Radio Shack, Best Buy and other outlets. Conlin and Harrell will join community groups at Center Park on Friday, to discuss retailers' lack of response to their request, and public readiness for the DTV transition.
Seattle groups involved in Friday's event include local MAG-Net partner organizations Reclaim the Media and the Youth Media Institute, as well as the Seattle Housing Authority, whose Center Park facility provides affordable living accommodations for physically or mentally challenged individuals and their caretakers.
Center Park is one of several locations around the city where the Seattle DTV Assistance Centers have provided workshops and walk-in DTV assistance to low-income residents, immigrants, elders and people with disabilities. Walk-in Centers are sponsored by the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW) and the Leadership Academy (425 SW 144th St, Burien). Reclaim the Media hosts workshops at a variety of locations and operates a local call-in hotline at 206.508.1277. As the June 12 DTV transition date comes closer, local assistance center operations will increase – visit
Communication is a fundamental human right!
Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights guarantees that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media, and regardless of frontiers.” Many media justice organizations recognize that the DTVtransition represents a major shift in the way news, information, and culture is transmitted and received. Our move from historic forms of communication such as broadcast and print to new digital models of communication raises questions about digital inclusion—and its relation to the DTV transition. Whether the DTV transition or broadband build-out, this digital expansion presents challenges to access and regulation that have the potential to either increase the pre-existing disenfranchisement of marginalized groups, or access and equity.
How we handle the DTV transition is a good indication of how we will handle other Digital Inclusion issues. The Digital TV transition has always been about access. It is about ensuring that every individual and every community (irrespective of circumstance) is able to access low cost, convenient technology. And, it’s about skills–whether using the Internet to apply for a $40 coupon, or hooking up a new converter box, we have to ensure that individuals have the ability to interact with relevant hardware and make it work for them.