Yesterday, all of the Denver TV stations with news operations devoted significant portions of their broadcasts to the conversion from analog signals to the digital kind, which will take place on February 17; visit DTV.gov to learn more about the details than you will ever need to know. I caught segments on channels 2, 4, 7 and 9 that seemed cut from the same cloth: lengthy, time-burning presentations that probably seemed insultingly dumbed down to people who know even a little about cable or satellite television, but which likely proved to be confusing and/or frustrating for folks who don't. People in the latter category were likely even more freaked out by a separate experiment I caught on Channel 9. Anchor Adele Arakawa told viewers that a commercial break immediately following her lead-in would look fine if viewers were ready for the digital switchover, but wouldn't for those who needed a converter box. Prescription: panic.
TV watchers have been inundated with stories, news crawls and lots more about digital conversion for months now, and if there's still a sizable percentage of them who don't know what it's all about by now, radically increasing the amount of such material through mid-February isn't going to help -- unless the goal is irritating the hell out of people with a clue, in which case it'll be a smashing success. So here's an idea borrowed from the just-completed election: Call people. Ask them individually if they need help readying their TV for the next generation of broadcasting. Cross them off the list if they're plugged in. Step in and walk through through it if they're not. That way, assistance is focused on those who really need it, as opposed to the vast majority of us who want the news to feature timely reports about the events of the day, not patronizing lessons we don't need to learn. -- Michael Roberts