Revisiting a Short Film on the Digital Television Transition

Curator's Note

This was a short film I made as a segment for the TV show, Chicago Independent Television, which I help produce.   One thing I intended to express in making this film was to provide some of the larger context behind the transition: the reasons why it was happening, both those which have been hyped by the FCC and the National Association of Broadcasters, and those less publicized but no less important. 


The film mentioned one irony involved with these town halls, but another is the half-hearted and half-baked efforts at outreach.  Doing town halls for outreach? – This is the freaking FCC.  If the FCC wanted to do REAL outreach, they have government authority over TV and radio stations and channels.  They could simply flex their muscle to order stations to surrender serious time and money to broadcast serious shows in prime time or choice time about the transition, lest the FCC revoke (or even threaten to revoke) a station’s broadcast license.  In fact, I know from sources that the FCC did order TV stations to steadily increase announcements of the DTV transition.  But the outreach was half-assed – what TV coverage there was came mostly in the form of public service announcements, which don’t reach to a good chunk of TV viewers, and seldom appear in prime time. 


But the FCC wouldn’t rock the boat for a good reason: Nearly all FCC commissioners, and a good chunk of FCC staff (of both parties), wind up working for or in the very media and broadcast industries they supposedly “regulated”.  (To my surprise, Deborah Taylor Tate, who appears in the film, went into the nonprofit sector.  For now.)  There’s an old joke: If you’re an FCC commissioner, don’t irk that next media mogul who’s lobbying for one or another policy.  He could be your next boss. 


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