"The government's billion-dollar program to help people prepare for the transition to digital television has run out of money, potentially leaving millions of viewers without coupons to buy converter boxes they need to keep their analog TV sets working after the switch."
Thus began Washington Post staffer Kim Hart's January 6 Business section front-pager, "TV Converter Program Runs Out of Funding." Hart promptly went into noting that "[m]embers of Congress are now scrambling to find ways to allocate more money to the program," yet took no effort in her 13-paragraph story to find critics of the program who could say, in effect, "See, I told you so."
"This is typical of a government that doesn’t measure real results to determine a project’s success," Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) Vice President David Williams told NewsBusters via e-mail:
CAGW has been very critical of the implementation of the transition and the FCC has mishandled this transition from day one. More concerned about getting the message out then providing citizens with the proper hardware, the FCC seemingly forgot, or failed to plan for actual implementation of the switch. In October, 2008, Citizens Against Government Waste named FCC Chairman Kevin Martin Porker of the Month for using FCC funds to sponsor a NASCAR driver from his home state to advertise the transition from analog to digital. The car crashed in it’s first race of sponsorship.
What's more, in February 2005, before the voucher program became public policy, CAGW President Tom Schatz scoffed at the notion of spending tax dollars for converter boxes:
The market will find a way to accommodate these 20 million households in a variety of ways, including converters, rebates, and other low-cost incentives. Some in Congress are proposing a subsidy for low-income households to purchase digital television sets. But that is like asking the government to buy everyone a DVD player because Blockbuster no longer rents VHS tapes.
Hart did find a liberal Democrat, Rep. Edward Markey -- ACU lifetime score: 5.20% conservative -- to issue the typical lament that not enough money was being thrown at the problem. The Bush administration "created a mess by not admitting that there was not sufficient funding until the very last minute," the Massachusetts Democrat complained.
Photo of Hart via WashingtonPost.com