DTV Deficit?


This president is smart, as savvy as a Harvard lawyer, and as suave as a Dick Van Dyke impression of Fred Astair. He is wildly mediagenic and certainly not shy. He picked March Madness brackets on ESPN, for goodness sakes. But he continues to frustrate me with his relative media silence on the extension of the DTV transition date, which was one of his administration’s first legislative full-court presses.

The latest frustration came Friday night, at a fund-raiser in L.A. no less, where a lot of that broadcast TV content comes from, and after giving a shout-out to Jennifer Hudson, who would not have gotten a Grammy and a Tony and an Oscar and a Nobel Prize and a Pulitzer and Peabody (OK, she didn’t get all of those) and I don’t know what all without the exposure of American Idol.

At this fund-raiser, the president even went through all the important first initiatives of his administration. Well, almost all of them.

He talked about the economic recovery package of course, he talked about passing “historic” legislation to crack down on predatory credit card abuses. He talked about expanding children’s health programs, and the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and new fuel efficiency standards, and he talked about removing the ban on stem cell research funding.

As well he might. And then he said: “What else did we do. There was laughter (this is all according to a White House transcript of the appearance at the Beverly Hills Hotel fund-raiser), and then he said “let’s see…, we put in place a whole series of measures to stabilize the housing market.” He talked about virtually every legislative initiative and I was ready to finally be proved wrong about his seeming reluctance to even acknowledge the DTV switch-over.

And then he didn’t say: “And we took steps to make sure that the transition to digital television went as smoothly as possible without leaving millions of at-risk populations without valuable, make that vital, TV service.

He didn’t pause, look at the camera earnestly and with conviction, and say: “We just announced a nationwide effort today to protect our digital infrastructure. Digital TV is also a digital asset we needed to protect by making sure that when we implement it, the biggest change in communications delivery since the pony express gave way to the train and then the telegraph, does not leave any of our citizens in the dark.”

“I want to thank the media community for supporting the switch and pitching in to make it work.”

That is what he didn’t say.

And for the life of me I can’t tell you why. I have yet to see the down side in the president using some portion of that bully pulpit to push transition education.  Why not on Leno or a Hispanic awards show or in conversation with an NBC crew trailing him around for a day-in-the-life documentary, to get some earned media attention for the DTV transition.

I guarantee if he had said something like the above Friday night, I would have led the web site and bicycled it around the net, and so would others, though the ranks of media reporters are thinning faster than the contestants on Biggest Loser.

PS: I can’t track all the president’s public statements, though with the efficiency of the White House transcript mill I can get pretty close. So, if I have missed some major shout-out to broadcasters or educational message about the transition, let me know. I would love to be proven wrong.