Delaying Digital TV Only Adds to the Mess

Congress can do better things to ease the transition

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The digital TV switch is a mess. Word has it that congressional leaders are close to a bill to delay the deadline for turning off analog broadcasts. But I agree with outgoing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who says it will add to already rampant confusion.

For one, it's a deadline to switch off analog. Some stations are making the switch sooner. Whole markets including Wilmington, N.C. have already gone digital. The state of Hawaii is throwing the switch today.

Or individual stations in some markets are making the change early. That's because broadcasters probably save more money by turning off their analog signal than it costs them in lost customers.

Congress could consider other answers. The coupon program is at the heart of the problem, by congressional design. Reinstate expired coupons, which are worthless after 90 days. Add money to the program so people can quickly get coupons.

Yes, the switch will hit the poor and the elderly harder than most. Maybe Congress could do something to target them with added help. They'll need it even if the deadline isn't moved because the transition is already underway.

I don't see how moving the deadline is worth it. Yes, it's a mess. A delay will only make it worse.