It’s fairly obvious that the FCC is scrambling now at the 11th hour to get everybody in the know about the digital conversion happening in February of 2009. And they’re feeling the same feeling we all have of time slipping under their feet, especially when it seems like yesterday we were thinking the digital conversion was a long time away. In the case of the FCC, that can bring on a lot of stumbling as they scramble to travel the country getting people educated on the digital conversion when there’s an unbelievable large number who watch TV off an antenna who still don’t know what’s going to happen. In the best case scenario, though, scrambling at the 11th hour can lead to some brilliant ideas.
Most people would be incredulous to the FCC coming up with anything brilliant. But it seems that they were behind picking Wilmington, North Carolina as the first U.S. city to convert all their TV broadcasts to digital. Yeah, if this was described in a pitch for a Hollywood movie, it might just be said to be a cross between “The Andy Griffith Show” and a futuristic adventure.
Not that Wilmington is anywhere near resembling Mayberry by any means. Even so, it’s still considered a small southern city considering it has a population only around 75,000 along with a lot of famous names who’ve come from there. The symbolism is just perfect, though, when the FCC is trying to grab people’s attentions over how simple the digital conversion can potentially be rather than a nightmare for the technophobes of America. The psychological response to the idea that a homespun southern city can easily change over to digital should be quite a different one from hearing about New York City going digital first.
This breaks a lot of ground, really, in the annals of TV technology advancing. It’s quite a bit different from back in the late 1940’s when TV (and all the subsequent improvements) all started in New York or most of the wealthy east coast cities where people were more apt to buy that expensive new device called a television. If you talk to older people who remember the days when television was just starting, they’ll tell you that the west coast of the United States didn’t get televisions for sale out here until close to the early 50’s. My own grandparents and parents remember TV getting out to the NW United States after 1950 when it was already a common thing taken for granted in other parts of the country.
Despite that, ratings for some of the earliest shows (particularly Milton Berle’s wildly popular “Texaco Star Theater”) were quite large, but obviously doubled once the rest of the country caught up with what people on the east coast and Los Angeles had already assimilated into their lives.
That’s why the newest evolution of TV technology starting in the southern U.S. is quite different from the ordinary and how they’ll be comfortable with the whole digital process by the time the rest of us turn over this coming February. According to reports at the time of this writing, the first week of the digital turnover has gone smoothly and something I’m sure the FCC made darn sure would happen. They’ve been going on the warpath against technophobia this summer all over America and making sure a lot of seniors understand that the digital turnover isn’t rocket science.
From all indications, a lot of the elderly in Wilmington are enjoying the digital boxes that they all received for free (or mostly if they didn’t get something more expensive) and finding out that they actually get more channels on those boxes than they did through the antenna. You can be sure you’ll be hearing testimonials in the news from those people in the months leading up to next February. It’s as obvious as the big symbolic switch that the mayor of Wilmington and the FCC chief pulled at a press conference in the southern city.
For some, it might seem overly calculated just to get people educated on the digital turnover. But it’s still subtle enough where the part of America people consider to be the epitome of true down home values (thanks to “The Andy Griffith Show” and other entertainment like it) still resonates. That Hollywood pitch of the 21st century coming to an area where Mayberry was in the fictional universe can really create a strong response in skeptical people.
It’s possible then that no more will there be an elitist attitude over the digital conversion and thinking only those in big cities have the big bucks to afford the equipment. Yes, it’s downright brilliant of the FCC to concoct the whole thing when they seem to stumble on so many other issues related to television.
Now if they can only make smart decisions on the things you see off those digital boxes. Wilmington doesn’t want to hang their head in shame that they were the first to usher in an era when over-the-air digital TV showed things that weren’t managed efficiently…