Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Politics > 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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  • adriana
    January 28, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    I’m just going to play devil’s advocate for a minute… but do Latino and African-American families really need television? We could get emergency info on the radio. There are still newspapers and plenty of books for entertainment. Eventually, the signal is going to change. What did we all do before everyone had a tube some 50-60 years ago? (ducks head)

  • Grandma
    January 28, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    This has been planned and announced and heavily advertised for YEARS.
    Your failure to plan does not constitute an emergency on my part. Obviously a delay would not help those who do not help themselves.

  • Thomas
    January 29, 2009 at 1:52 am

    Guess reading a book is too much of a chore these days. I don’t really care. We wasted more today with the stimlus bill. Glad the republicans voted no. That bill will increase our debt and create problems in the long run. People not being able to watch tv is the least of my concerns.

  • Marisa Treviño
    January 29, 2009 at 8:53 am

    I may be making generalizations here, but from what I’ve personally seen is that those families who wouldn’t be able to afford a device like this converter box, probably means that they rely on tv for not just entertainment but informational needs too. Chances are they don’t have internet access at home or even very high levels of literacy. We’re talking about people who live at or below the poverty line. Of course, those people who don’t believe in tv are another story unto themselves but don’t characterize the vast majority who can’t afford the device.

  • Alessandra
    January 29, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I don’t see anything wrong with postponing the shift for a short time, maybe three months or so. But the Republicans do have a point that to change it now might be confusing as most people are expecting the change in February.
    This change has really been well-publicized for a long time now and people should have been aware of it. Even my 10-year-old nephew asked our grandmother whether her t.v. was “ready.” Coupons for converter boxes have been available for quite some time to help lower income people make the transition.
    There are also many older, poor white people in rural areas which do not have access to cable, so I fail to see how this is purely a “racial issue” but as one to get the message out to older residents who are not as “clued into” these technological issues.

  • Texano78704
    January 29, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    We wasted more today with the stimlus bill. Glad the republicans voted no. That bill will increase our debt and create problems in the long run.
    Hmm, I wonder where the Republicans were when the Bush administration ran up about $4 trillion in debt? Allow me to answer that question. They almost unanimously supplied the legislation for Bush to sign.
    I find it kind of odd that Republicans would vote down what would appear to be a pro-business bill. Besides providing entertainment, TV is also about advertising. Lost viewers also means lost sales.

  • Thomas
    January 30, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    hey texano. Explain to me when the dems took over in 06 the debt was 8 trillion. Now its 10 trillion. Are you condoning the dems adding more debt to our problems? Tell me how is giving Acorn. The group that is one of the reasons the finacial housing went down and involve in voter fraud across the nation is given 4 billion dollars of the tax payer money. Its not a stimulus plan. Its a payout. A payout to all those who helped Obama get elected. Now Obama is going to cause a trade war with europe and Canada. Boy that should help wouldn’t it. Oh before you go through the whole Clinton surplus bull. Know this. Newt and the republicans control both houses at that time. Mommy and daddy didn’t want to give Clinton to much money.

  • Texano78704
    January 31, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Hey Thomas, how about tell us where that money went? Please include real sources, not ones that make up facts. While you are at it, prove your assertion that ACORN as an organizat engaged in voter fraud. Indictments and convictions of the leadership will suffice.
    Am I condoning adding more debt? Why didn’t you ask that question when BushCo wrote a $3 trillion check to wealthy of this country and left an IOU over at the US Treasury? And know this, Republicans controlled Congress when he did it.
    To answer your question, yes, I am condoning adding more debt. I would be happy to explain, but it is really not part of this topic. Let me simply say that you can get adequate responses from anyone that has taken an Econ 101 class. It’s called “Keynesian economics.” Real economics, not the rip off that Republicans are guilty of perpetrating under BushCo.

  • J Cir
    February 1, 2009 at 9:47 am

    I wonder where in the US Constitution does it state one has a right to watch TV? This is an absolute waste of taxpayers money. If you can’t afford a TV and/or a converter box, you don’t deserve one or both, whether you’re white, black, brown, or otherwise. News item to the race-mongers and class-mongers: Unlike food and health care, television is not a necessity, unless of course it serves as a parental substitute for the unwed mothers or irresponsible households adding a new baby every other year. Or one “needs” to hear the daily migra propaganda and demands for amnesty on Unavision.
    Access to TV is not a right! Read a book once in awhile. Contrary to what our public schools tell our kids, readinf won’t kill you.

  • Horace
    February 3, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    These people could still pay for these converters without a discount. Why should I as a taxpayer pay for others devices? I have cable TV, so this doesn’t benefit me. Marisa makes an issue over something that should be the responsibility of the TV owners, with the coupon being a nice to have benefit but not entitlement. The last time I looked in my copy of the Constitution it said nothing about the government’s responsibility to give people discount coupons for such things.

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