Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bye-bye rabbit ears (not you, Bugs!)

With the impending demise of broadcast TV, I am thanking my lucky stars that I am the owner of a satellite system. (If you wonder which one, it rhymes with "wish TV.") In a little over three weeks the era of analog broadcasting will cease and the beginning of exclusive digital broadcasting will begin. What that means is that all of those rooftop antennas that were formerly perched on rooftops in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties are now about as pertinent as fins on the backs of automobiles. It also means the effective end of the interior TV antenna, better known as rabbit ears. About a year ago, I purchased a small black and white TV set at a drugs store for less than $20. I intended to keep it in my kitchen in order to keep me engaged while I was preparing breakfast or dinner. It would appear that its days are numbered because the only way it would receive broadcasts after the switch to digital would require the hookup of a digital receiver. In case some of you haven't been checking, the cost of those darlings is quite high. The federal government has promised discount certificates for those who will be hard hit by the switch, but the program that ensures the availability of funds has run out of money. That translates into huge costs to the consumers who have not made plans prior to the switch to continue receiving TV broadcasts in digital. I'm not spending $100 or more to continue to receive broadcasts over a $19 unit. Besides, there aren't nearly enough electric wall receptors in my kitchen. Are there ever really enough in any kitchen? But for those of us who are presently receiving cable or satellite TV broadcasts in our homes, we are spared the problem. We will notice not one scintilla difference after February 17 than what we have now. Of course, we'll also have those fairly high bills that come with those services. At a time in our nation's economy when we should be conserving money, we're still spending it with abandon when it comes to TV reception. As a child, I remember growing up with only four TV channels to view, one of them a PBS affiliate. Later, there were two more UHF channels added to the mix and I thought I was in TV heaven. Today I have 100 channels to view, but several of the ones I viewed with my pre-Hurricane Katrina cable service are not included in the satellite TV package I chose. So, Turner Classic Movies, Bravo and American Movie Classics are not available unless I want to upgrade to a more expensive package. For the package I receive today I spend almost $500 a year. That seems a lot higher than my comfort level, considering the broadcast TV signals I received growing up cost me nothing. I no longer receive cable broadcasts (in case you're wondering, it rhymes with "pox cable") because the monthly bills, which used to be less than $20 per month including HBO, climbed to almost $50 per month with no premium channel. But think about the incredible progress we've made. Aside from the now six local channels from which I can choose, I also have huge numbers of home shopping selections and hundreds of channels that I can see on my guide. Unfortunately, most of them require an upgrade in service in order for me to see them. As it turns out, I am usually only viewing only a few more than the local TV channels under my present contract. It seems that most of the time I am consoled watching "Law and Order" in its various iterations, "Monk," "Psych" and "Burn Notice," the last three of which are USA Network programs. Despite their popularity, I haven't been much of a "24," "Desperate Housewives," "Gray's Anatomy," or "American Idol" fan, probably because my schedule is such that I can't devote that much time to watching programs on a regular basis. When all is said and done, I'm so lucky I don't have to worry about receiving that pesky "free" broadcast TV anymore. Besides, look how much more beautiful my interior is without those horrible rabbit ears. It's a giant leap for mankind, don't you think?

No comments: