Comcast's TV Trashing Event and Its Connection to the Digital Switch

Comcast's "Screen to Green TV Recycling Rally," which begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 28 on the Auraria campus (click here for details), is being given a predictably planet-friendly spin. Press materials quote Denver mayor John Hickenlooper lauding the Screen to Green initiative, which is intended to help consumers "responsibly recycle their old technology to improve our environment," according to Comcast veep Scott Binder. But Comcast, which is underwriting part of the recycling fee (participants will be charged $5 per trashed screen), no doubt has other interests in mind, too -- like, for instance, encouraging people to upgrade their sets in advance of the forthcoming transition to all-digital broadcasting.

The Federal Communications Commission has set February 17, 2009 as the date when broadcast TV stations will make the switch to digital -- and the consumer facts page accessible at this link explains why. Unfortunately, the looming deadline has confused plenty of folks. Practically all of my elderly relatives have contacted me in a panic wondering if they need to buy new sets. The overwhelming majority of them -- the ones who get their programming under the auspices of a cable or satellite company -- don't need to worry; only those who use an antenna to receive over-the-air signals need take some kind of action. But promotions running frequently on outlets such as Channel 9 are ratcheting up the fear factor instead of reassuring most viewers that everything is fine.

Nevertheless, television manufacturers love the idea of a sudden buying frenzy. If every old TV recycled at the Screen to Green initiative turns into a new set, then, they'll be thrilled even if the old one would have worked perfectly well at this time next year. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts