FCC Regulators Sing, Make Fun Of Our Woeful Unpreparedness For DTV Transition

Meet The Singing Regulators. Regular FCC employees by day, these mellifluous regulators spend their nights performing humorous sendups inspired by the Commission’s work. Their latest song pokes fun at the FCC‘s utter failure to prepare the nation for the planned February 2009 transition to digital television.

On February 19, 2009, stations will stop broadcasting analog signals. Consumers will be unable to receive signals over the air unless they shell out $60 for a digital converter box. Few people know about the transition, or the $40 coupons the government has made available to subsidize the cost of the converter boxes. Where we see a problem, The Singing Regulators see a song.

Bloomberg reprinted the lyrics to Away in a Farm House, sung to the tune of Away in a Manger:

Away in a farm house, no show can I see. I lost all my coupons to get DTV. My friends in the city, they all said, “Relax!” That’s easy to say when you’re wired with co-ax. Looking for help, I went down to the store, I asked for more coupons, they just said “what for?” They sold me a monster, takes up my whole wall. I yearn for the days of my old analog. In Two-Thousand Nine after Super Bowl Week, My analog set will become an antique. I hope that the public will know what to do, For most of my neighbors do not have a clue…

Other hit songs include Joy To The World (the iPhone’s here), and Oh BlackBerry! FCC Chairman Kevin Martin should launch an immediate investigation into The Singing Regulators’ conspicuous absence from YouTube.

Oh BlackBerry! FCC Carolers Poke Fun at Issues: Cindy Skrzycki [Bloomberg]
PREVIOUSLY: $40 Coupons For Digital TV Converter Boxes
The Conversion to Digital Television Is Going To Be Unpleasant

(Photo: clofresh)


Edit Your Comment

  1. HykCraft says:


  2. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I think it would be great if a huge percent of Americans aren’t prepaired for this transition. It is amazing how much more a person does with their time w/o tv available.

    Then again, this most likely will hit the elderly the worst, and its not like they have much else to do than watch TV.

  3. Curiosity says:


    Interesting comment (especially considering the 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 implications and the “dumbing down” of consumers through information overload).

    This does somewhat strike me as the artificial creation of demand through legislation versus the use of a market economy (socialism vs. capitalism) which is very anti-liberal in the traditional sense and very anti consumerist (and in the long run anti-business).

    Perhaps they would be wise to read a bit of Milton Freedman or Adam Smith? [www.fff.org]

  4. georgeclay says:

    This has been coming for decades. I remember talk of upgrading TV back in the 70’s. The amazing thing is that it has taken so long for the FCC and Congress to get their stuff together and get it done.

  5. mac-phisto says:

    @curiosity: it actually has everything to do with the market economy – analog signals take up an enormous amount of bandwidth & there’s a finite amount of the spectrum available. as more & more devices utilize it, the gov’t is having a difficult time making enough room for everybody. digital broadcasting is designed to free up spectrum room for other uses in the long-term.

    it’s not like this is anything new – satellite cos have been broadcasting digital for a decade. some cable operators have already upgraded their customers w/o them even knowing. the majority of the market has been moved to this for awhile – anybody who tunes a channel in above 100 is ready for the dtv switch. the whole point of the legislation is that the technology is available & its use is prevalent, so the broadcasters’ wave allotment is superfluous. once the switch to digital is official, they’ll be able to consolidate the band & sell off the unused portions.

    free market at its finest.

  6. lenagainster says:

    @Alteredbeast: this most likely will hit the elderly the worst, and its not like they have much else to do than watch TV

    Hey! I resemble that remark! Us old folks managed to figure out how to sign up for Medicare. The few of us that still use Over The Air Broadcast TV will eventually figure out that we have to trudge down to the nearest WalMart and pick up a converter box. Or we’ll get our computer literate grandson to do it for us.

    Much ado about nothing.

  7. Atomike says:

    Question: Who is affected by the loss of analog antenna TV?
    Answer: Nobody.

    The real problem here is TV salesmen who tell everyone their TV won’t work soon.
    The fact is the NOTHING will happen in 2009. Nobody will notice a difference. And morons will buy big new TVs for no reason. So what? Who cares?

  8. sommere says:

    The situation would be much less bad if $60 converter boxes actually existed.

    The cheapest devices I’ve seen with an ATSC tuner are more like $160.

    DTV has the potential to be a _good_ thing for consumers because people who could only get really crappy reception using analog signals can get crystal clear DTV signals making cable unnecessary for many people.

  9. Curiosity says:


    Obviously a wrinkle to the argument, however, I think you missed that if this was truly a market the savings would be passed to the consumer. Perhaps it is?

    However, it is perhaps the critic in me who believes that both business has the tendency to charge what the market will bear, and the market will bear more (in the short term and at the expense of long term profit) in a situation like the millennium bug, or threat of terrorist attack. Or in a mandated extinguishing of the analog market rather than inducing change by passing on savings. Consumers should want to schange b/c it is in their benefit, not b/c it will make businesses a profit.

    Like, but not the same as, a monopoly or antitrust concerns.

  10. Charles Duffy says:

    @Atomike: You realize that not everybody has cable or satellite TV, right? Right?

  11. tobashadow says:

    I have found myself recently having to explain to more and more people with cable and sat tv that they DO NOT need one of those box’s no matter what their sat or cable company or store has been trying to sell them.

  12. ChrisC1234 says:

    Hurricane Katrina really taught me a lot about the utilities that we all rely on. In any sort of storm, once the cable system is down, how many people will be up a creek? I have cable TV, but I will be purchasing a digital receiver box, just in case I ever need it. After Katrina, all of the stores that were reopened had a run on TV antennas. It was MONTHS before the cable had been restored in most places.

  13. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    This just might be the worst government program in years!
    If Congress had any balls, they would step in & delay the changeover for at least a year & completely ban the sale of analog tuner TV’s.

    The incompetence of the Republitard run FCC is beyond belief. I saw analog TV’s for sale at Target last week, although they did have the required warning label, but in really small print.
    No analog only TV’s should have been sold for the last three years!

  14. scampy says:


    Actually the law was made for people like me who are sick and tired of only having like 18 HD channels to watch. If everyone had a digital TV then all networks would broadcast in HD and we wouldnt have to suffer through watching standard definition TV. The problem is there are too many cheap people out there who refuse to change so we have to make laws forcing them to change. I havent spoken to ONE person who after seeing a show in true HD that said it didnt look great. The jump from SD to HD is as dramatic as when they switched from black and white to color. If this law wasnt made it might be 75 years before everything is broadcast in HD instead of 5 or so years.

  15. Curiosity says:


    I have no problem with HD. But, if consumers feel like HD is not worth it irrespective of your views, they should not be forced into getting something they can do without. In other words, if consumers feel like they are getting gypped b/c the price is too high they should be allowed to make that decision (unless there is some other factor than the minority’s overriding addiction to television).

    A simple solution to your addiction problem is to promote HD by lowering the cost of HD sets to be competitive with analog and then utilizing the greater efficiency of digital broadcasting to not only make your business more profitable, but to expand into new areas and provide an irreplaceable social service.

    Perhaps you miss the fact that money can be used for things other than entertainment – like food, rent, heating, education, clothes, and real life (which has better definition than HD).

  16. mac-phisto says:

    @curiosity: well, i think the biggest issue here was getting the broadcasters to change. the government mandated a portion of the spectrum to them & they’ve been quite reluctant to give that up. you may remember a few years back when they were planning on bundling channels & force cablecos to carry them all under the current broadcasting regs. that is, until the fcc explained that they wouldn’t be keeping the unused portion of their respective bands.

    in a way dtv makes tv cheaper for consumers – insofar as there are more channels to choose from. in 1992, there were 57 channels & nothing on. today, there’s 570 channels & nothing on. =P

  17. mac-phisto says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: to be honest, i think this has already been delayed twice (but i could be mistaken).

    @scampy: dtv =/= hdtv. the gov’t cares not about hdtv. they simply want to free up radio waves so they can auction them off to someone else (or reserve them for gov’t use). a digital signal takes up a fraction of the bandwidth of an analog signal. hd is a completely unrelated monster.

  18. azntg says:

    @lenagainster: Or if you have fillial children, they’ll come to you first and take care of it before you’ll even have to ask ;-)

    @sommere: I agree. There is no reasonable solution for those of us still on Analog OTA. I do disagree with the reception issue though. It’s either you get a crystal clear picture or you get nothing at all. Some people might lose access to some channels overall.

    True, they’re splitting output with analog and digital right now. Surely after the switchover, they’ll allocate full power for the digital signal. But I expect that once the digital switchover is finalized, I will lose out on a lot of the channels that I can view right now (I live in the NY Metro Area, I expect to lose access to NJN, CPTV and a couple of Long Island stations because of the way DTV works)

  19. Curiosity says:


    True in a way (ha ha), but unless consumers think the channels are worth it then they will just be disaffected.

    I assume it is too much to ask for (1) quality programming with the components of a story [members.fortunecity.com], (2)something that is refreshing rather than a remake, (3)good music not just pop, (4) educational value while entertaining (think Shakespeare and his insight about being human), (5) reality w/o the fakery of reality tv, or (6) fiction with some substance.

  20. Curiosity says:

    Broadcasters will change if there is a profit in it for them and there will be if they give consumers a reason to demand the item which is usually both price based and if the item satisfies a need.

  21. econobiker says:

    I am glad that we will be able to access “paid programming” via digital after 2009. I have always wanted to watch demonstrations of auto wax and chicken cookers via digital reception…

  22. scampy says:


    True but most DTV also have HD capability. The broadcasters dont want to spend the money to broadcast in HD because not enough people can take advantage of it and people dont buy HDTV because there isnt enough HD channels so its the loop from hell. By forcing people to buy DTV or digital boxes then there will be a much larger HDTV capable base which will encourage more networks to broadcast in HD.

    Also using your logic people dont NEED color TVs either but everyone has one. You can get by with black and white. In fact you dont NEED a TV at all.

  23. Blueskylaw says:
  24. Curiosity says:

    Actually “Mac-phisto” has sound logic – what you are confusing is mandating a change and letting the consumers choose (in this case color or in fact tv to begin with). I mean all you really need can be easily sumamrized (see Maslow), the question is what can you afford and if the item is worthwhile.

    I mean if you want to subsidize a new HD set (50 inch please) for me and Mac-Phisto, we will surely get HD programming and you will see a greater support in the market from us for HD products.