Digital TV transition looms, CEA goes on free trade tour
WASHINGTON – It is about six months until the United States faces a seismic event that potentially rivals the Y2K scare eight years ago — the digital television transition which could switch off millions of old television sets.
The television industry and government officials are doing a lot to warn consumers that if they don’t have a new television that can pick up the new, crisper pictures, don’t buy a digital-to-analog converter box or don’t have a subscription service like cable, they could be in the dark come Feb. 18, 2009.
So that would lead one to believe that the Consumer Electronics Association, whose mission in life is to hawk all those new fangled gizmos to consumers, would be on the road talking up the beautiful (and expensive) digital television sets its members want to sell.
But instead of warning about the looming deadline that could mean millions of televisions going dark, strangely, the CEA has set out on a different kind of bus tour this summer — promoting free trade (and of course never mind that gasoline is still hovering around $4 a gallon).
Free trade you ask? Well, it certainly left us scratching our heads, since the Democratic-controlled Congress has pretty much made it clear no free trade agreements will likely pass this year (Colombia, Panama and South Korea are pending) despite constant pressure from President George W. Bush.
The bus is going through 28 states over the next few weeks and it will also make appearances at the two presidential nominating conventions in late August and early September.
A spokesman for CEA, Jason Oxman, said they were challenged by congressional leaders to mount an education effort and how trade was a “bright spot” in the faltering economy. He also said the United States had already cut tariffs on Colombian products entering the country but U.S. goods still faced barriers entering that country.
“We are responding with a nationwide, grassroots educational tour that highlights free trade’s vital role in the U.S. economy and job creation, as 16 percent of the 4.4 million Americans who work in the CE industry owe their jobs to free trade,” he said.
As for the digital transition, Oxman said “Our consumer education work with our industry and government partners is active and widespread.”