Kudos to the Denver Post for belatedly assigning one of its finest reporters, David Migoya, to take on a severely underreported story -- the likelihood that thousands of Coloradans who currently get free television will lose the ability to do so once a switchover from analog to digital TV signals is finally complete.
"The Digital Conversion Will Leave Some Coloradans in the Dark," the January 21 Message column, focused on one area resident whose reception will almost certainly vamoose due to antenna changes on Lookout Mountain made in an attempt to gain approval for a new digital tower. (Get more details about this epic political fight in the April 2000 feature "Something in the Air" and "The Origin of the Digital-TV Dead Zone West of Lookout Mountain," a January 21 blog larded with links to subsequent coverage.) But the potential problem is much broader than that, as noted in the following passage:
Even without this alteration, getting a good digital signal in mountainous or outlying locations would have been difficult... But with digital, users on the fringes of the broadcast area will either get a good picture or one that freezes in place or doesn't come in at all. Such troubles could be widespread. An FCC map estimating digital's reach shows that significant portions of Larimer, Morgan, Grand, Park, Summit, Weld and El Paso counties that receive analog signals from Denver will probably be out of digital range.
(Note: The map referred to above can be accessed as part of this January 28 blog.)
"Many Rural TVs Will Go Dark, Not Digital," the aforementioned Migoya report, which appeared on page one of the Post today, digs into this issue by getting into specifics about translators that boost signals into outlying communities. The devices in questions are designed to work with analog signals -- and because of the current economic crisis, several towns in Kit Carson County, in Eastern Colorado, don't have the funds to pay for expensive digital upgrades. County officials tell Migoya that, by their estimate, slightly under 10 percent of their residents have been getting free, over-the-air TV via these translators. If those folks don't, or can't, pony up for cable or satellite TV once the transition is final, their television sets will become the equivalent of oversized paperweights.
"Colo. Stations May Go Digital Before June," another piece in today's Post, points out that stations may go digital at different times over the next several months. In all likelihood, a bill pushing back the original February 17 DTV day to June 12 -- a measure that seemed dead a few weeks ago -- will soon be signed into law by President Barack Obama. However, the Post update says some Colorado outlets will probably stick with the February 17 date, while those in the Denver area may decide to pull one plug and insert the other in April.
Whenever this happens, lots of state residents will have their lives changed for the worse, especially if they're too broke to start paying for something they've been getting for free. Thank goodness news organs such as the Post are beginning to raise the alarm about this situation.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.