Terrestrial turn-off a turn-off

Media authority questioning sudden switch to digital

BERLIN — To err is human — but to really screw things up takes a Teutonic media authority.

North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, has called into question the national rollout of digital terrestial television, aka DVB-T or Everywhere Television.

It’s more than a little late. On Aug. 4, Berlin set the ball rolling when it became the world’s first city to switch off analog terrestrial broadcast signals and go digital, as did the surrounding state of Brandenburg.

NRW should be the next state to make the switch. But its media authority is refusing to finance the change, and wants to see a national concept, legislation and guaranteed funding before it’ll consider the matter.

Since most TVs can’t read digital signals, the switchover means viewers without cable, satellite or set-top boxes are now watching a blank screen. That covers roughly 20,000 out of 170,000 TV homes in Berlin and Brandenburg, according to that region’s Media Authority.

However, the vast majority of Germans are already cabled and don’t want to add yet another black box to the pile in the living room.

Factor in an ad campaign that stressed DVB-T’s ability to be received anywhere — in the car or even on handheld devices such as Palm Pilots — and it looks like the Teutonic love of technology has found its natural limits.

Here’s the rub, if the viewers don’t care about DVB-T, why should North-Rhine Westphalia?

If NRW’s refusal to go digital is causing industry consternation, next-in-line Bavaria is staying suspiciously silent as to its plans. The digital revolution could be over without really having started.