Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, acting in his capacity as the 'Bad News Dude', warned today of dire danger lurking in the telecommunication industry which could adversely effect financial markets in the coming new year.
"On February 15th, the nation's television broadcasters will turn off their analog signals, plunging an estimated fifty million American citizens into the void of static blankness," said Paulson. "They will, in effect, be lost to the marketplace, unable to wisely consume. And as staggering as that figure is, many more people could soon join them if they're forced to pay for health care instead of cable. The effect on the market could be devastating."
Although the government has been offering a $40 discount coupon for converters to those households affected by the looming TV crisis, efforts to reach this demographic has been greeted with skepticism. A typical reaction came from Mary Jo Harvester from Scranton.
"You don't know what's in those boxes," said Harvester. "It could be a cameras or some sort of device that puts thoughts in your head. And I heard the converter boxes are going to be more than forty dollars anyway. Who's going to pay the difference? And who's going to hook up the dang thing for me after I get it home? I'm sure as heck not going to let some government man into the house, that's for sure. I want my TV the way it's supposed to be, free and just coming through the air without some box that, like I said, who knows what the heck is in it."
The presidential candidates were quick to respond to Paulson's warning.
"My friends, I spent five and a half years without a television," John McCain said at a Duluth rally. "It was a living hell that I'll never forget. We could lose a whole generation of consumers at the flip of a switch. But really, when you think about it, if these people are not on cable or satellite, they're probably not very important as consumers anyway, are they? Maybe they should do what I used to do when I was young - listen to the radio."
Barack Obama proposed the creation of a new plan which he called the 'Manhattan Project for TV' whose goal would be to develop the technology required to receive digital signals at regional processing centers and convert them to analog signals, which could then be transmitted through the airwaves and received through devices that he calls antennas.
"It is not a matter of skill, it's a matter of will," Obama told NBC's Brian Williams. "I'm thinking about the single mother of three, returning home late at night from her second job, wanting nothing more than to relax for a few moments with Letterman, then turning on her set and seeing a blank screen. I'm thinking of the elderly couple, scraping by on their Social Security, who think of the Magnavox console in the living room as their loyal friend, a friend that never let them down until one cold day in February. America is better than to let that happen."
©2008, Mark Hoback