Archive for February 5, 2009

MySpace boots sex offenders

MySpace recently announced that it has turned over to authorities the names of 90,000 registered sex offenders previously on—but now banned—from the popular social networking site. And as troubling as that astronomical number sounds, it only represents convicted offenders who were using their real names. The true number of predators prowling through social networking sites such as MySpace is impossible to determine.

(Ironically, this news follows a report last month suggesting that the safety risks of using such sites may be exaggerated.)

Parents should check out the CR Babies and Kids Blog, which offers advice for keeping your kids safe online. Also see our Guide to Online Safety, which features a section on child safety.

—Nick Mandle

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Wait and See

The DTV Delay Bill has passed and will be signed into law by the President this week. What this means is a little unclear at the moment for the local stations. They did include a provision for stations to go ahead with the Feb 17th switch or wait until June 12th. Stations also have an option of filing a 30 day notice, and can shut analog off any time in-between those dates.

We will have a better idea how things will play out in this area, but I urge everyone to assume Feb 17th to be the big day until the stations announce otherwise. It is a fluid thing right now, and could go either way. As always, I’ll keep you updated here with the latest information about our station as it is available. I expect a final decision will be made Friday.

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Feb 5, House Approves DTV Delay until June

By a vote of 264 to 158, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to delay the DTV transition deadline until June 12.

The House action effectively ends the efforts by those, mostly Republicans, to maintain the original Feb. 17 DTV transition deadline. Last week, the Senate approved the delay, and President Barack Obama, who requested the delay in the weeks leading up to his inauguration, is expected to sign the bill into law.

Pressure from multiple sources mounted in the weeks preceding the vote. Concern from the Consumers Union about the preparedness of the nation’s over-the-air TV viewers, figures of The Nielsen Company showing more than 6.5 million remained unprepared as of January, and questions raised by multiple FCC commissioners about the agency’s ability to handle the crush of consumer inquiries after Feb. 17 all added weight to those arguing for a delay.

Perhaps the single biggest issue, however, was word from the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration in January that it had reached the congressionally approved threshold of .34 billion for DTV converter box reimbursement coupons.

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Feb 5, Congress Approves Digital TV Delay

WASHINGTON (Reuters) The U.S. switch to digital television signals will be delayed four months until June under legislation that cleared Congress on Wednesday and now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature into law.

Obama supports the delay, sharing concerns that 20 million mostly poor, elderly and rural households were not ready for the congressionally mandated switch.

The bill delaying the changeover to June 12 from February 17 cleared the U.S. House of Representatives in a 264 to 158 vote and followed Senate passage last month.

About 13 million people hold expired coupons the government was providing to offset the costs of converter boxes needed for older televisions, according to Consumers Union. The government ran out of coupons last month and millions of requests for coupons are pending.

“We believe it is irresponsible to ask mostly rural, or elderly consumers to reach into their own pockets to deal with this transition when many folks, including the federal government, are making a profit,” said Joel Kelsey, a policy analyst at Consumers Union.

Airwaves to be vacated by television broadcasters after the switch were purchased mostly by AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc in an auction that raised about billion for the U.S. government.

Both companies agreed to a short one time delay and their licenses will be extended under the bill.

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The DTV delay: What it means for you

Questions
Congress today voted to extend the deadline for the shutoff of analog TV broadcasts to June 12, an extension from the original February 17 date. President Obama is expected to sign the bill.

First, some basics: As we've emphasized before, the decision—and the transition to digital broadcasting itself—has little or no effect on cable and satellite subscribers. But if you receive over-the-air local broadcasts from an antenna, to an older TV set, the transition—and today's date extension—may affect you.

Here's a Q and A on what today's news means and doesn't mean:

So all stations must now continue analog broadcasts until June 12?

Well, not necessarily. The DTV Delay bill actually allows stations the flexibility to cease analog broadcasts on or even before February 17, under a process outlined by the Federal Communications Commission. Advocates for Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, is calling on broadcasters to use this option responsibly—which means, for example, offering ample notice to viewers before shutting down analog broadcasts. (The FCC requirements call for viewers to be notified at least 30 days in advance.)

Will today's bill get those subsidy coupons for DTV converter boxes flowing again?

No, alas. The program to provide coupons, which offset the cost of a DTV converter box to allow an older TV to accept the new broadcasts, has hit its funding cap. Funds to provide additional coupons are part of the economic stimulus bill, which isn't expected to receive a final vote in Congress before the end of next week.

What should I do in the meantime if I'm affected?

If you have a coupon in hand, use our advice and our free Ratings soonest to get a converter box and set it up. (Watch our free online video on How to hook-up your DTV converter box.) If you haven't, and you'll need one, add your name to the waiting list to receive a coupon when more become available.

If you feel you can forgo the subsidy and pay the full cost—typically to —of a box without a coupon, consider buying one now. The sooner you shop, the greater selection of boxes you may enjoy; there's some fretting about the possibility of demand exceeding supply for the devices, though other sources are more reassuring. Also, the sooner you begin what might be a period of some troubleshooting to acquire all—one hopes—of the stations you now receive in analog in their digital incarnations.

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