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House Republicans negative vote on digital tv switchover disenfranchises millions of Latino and African American families

House Republicans negative vote on digital tv switchover disenfranchises millions of Latino and African American families

LatinaLista — One of the "hallmarks" of the Bush Administration was its knee-jerk responses and "half-ass" preparations to matters that impacted the country or various portions of the populace.
Remember the fiasco with the passports? Not enough planning was done by the administration to consider the deluge of passport applications that would be submitted before the deadline when new fees and requirements would be implemented for travel to Mexico, Canada and other points that never before required a passport. As a result, there were a lot of unhappy people who missed going on long-planned vacations or business trips and the government was forced to push back the deadline.
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The switch from analog to digital television.
Or the construction of the border fence along the Texas-Mexico border? In their enthusiasm to build it, the Department of Homeland Security failed to realize that they had planned the fence through a college campus and the middle of some towns and people's backyards. It was only after some residents saw the blueprints and pointed it out to government officials did they discover they had a problem — again, a knee-jerk reaction that resulted in unprofessional execution.
Though the Bush Administration is history now, its presence is still being felt. The latest example is with the upcoming digital transmission changeover. And as before, the execution of this national matter lacks professional preparation to the point that it threatens to disenfranchise low-income and "multicultural" (minority) households.

According to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, the country is not ready for the changeover. The promised discount coupons are in short supply — at least 1 million people are on the waiting list — and public safety responders such as police and fire departments ready to take use of abandoned analog transmission channels are at risk.
U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va, said, "The Bush administration ignored calls from his office and other congressional leaders to either allocate more funding to the $1.3 billion already spent for the discounts or delay the transition date."
The Obama administration asked that the date be pushed back because of the exhausted federal funding for the discount coupons and troubleshooting help from the government to TV watchers would not meet the volume of calls expected.
Even Nielsen got into the fray and reported that 5.7 percent of the nation isn't yet ready for the switchover. Nielsen reports that big markets such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston and Dallas could temporarily lose more than 10 percent of Hispanic and African American viewers.
The Senate got the message and voted to postpone the changeover from its initial date of February 17 to June 12. However, the House defeated the bill to postpone the switchover.
Ironically, it's House Republicans who spearheaded the vote against the postponement. Why? They say,
"postponing the date would cause confusion for consumers and cost millions for broadcasters who have planned to make the transition."
Yet, interestingly, not one consideration for the millions of families who can't afford the necessary equipment to be part of the changeover.
Of course, this fiasco could have been averted had the Bush Administration heeded the calls early on to postpone the switchover when it became apparent the government was running out of money for the coupon program.
But it doesn't excuse the fact that the House didn't have to pass this bill. If they are so worried about consumer confusion, then they should worry that their move cuts along racial and economic lines by unnecessarily penalizing those demographics who can't afford the equipment.
Thankfully, all is not lost and the House has the opportunity to redeem itself in front of the American public.

House Democratic leaders have the option of bringing the same bill back to the floor under regular order, meaning that it would need only a simple majority to pass. Republicans would have the option of trying to amend the measure.

If ever there was a test of how much the Republican party wants to change to appeal to voters of color, this should be a no-brainer.

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