April 05, 2007

TV Or Not TV

Here's a neat cultural litmus test.

As you have perhaps heard, the wave of the future is digital TV; both Britain and the US are planning to completely switch off their analogue TV signals in favour of digital ones by 2012 and 2009, respectively.

In the States
the government will help consumers buy the necessary equipment to upgrade to digital -- a converter box that attaches to the TV set.

The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said it is setting aside $990 million to pay for the boxes. Each home can request up to two $40 coupons for a digital-to-analog converter box. (From SFGate.com.)
In Britain, meanwhile
Equipment, installation and assistance will be provided to people over 75, those with severe disabilities and the blind or partially sighted.

This will cost £40, or those who are eligible and are also on pension credit, job seeker's allowance or income support will get it free. (From The Beeb.)
So, to recap: in the US, free TV for all! In Britain, free TV for old blind people on income support!

I can imagine that the idea of denying television to the poor would be more repugnant to an American than to a Brit (indeed, my American half is sputtering indignantly all over his cheeseburger, while my British half is sipping tea disdainfully). What I can't decide is whether or not the difference is down to the stereotypical ubiquity of television in the States, or the fairly well-documented "equality of opportunity" rhetoric in the States. A better academic case could certainly be made for the latter, but I think without the former there would be less reason to see TV as an "opportunity" of sorts. Can someone please do a study for me?

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Following a long tradition of dreaming about Presidential candidates, last night my brain cooked up a soporific soap opera about my darling cousin Sarah becoming engaged to John McCain's son. What does it mean?

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