Digital Apartheid

root - Posted on 01 January 2000

Thousands of poor folks, disabled folks and elders won’t make it to the other side of the DIGITAL TELEVISION switch-over in 2009

Thousands of poor folks, disabled folks and elders won’t make it to the other side of the DIGITAL TELEVISION switch-over in 2009

by Marlon Crump/PNNFriday, October 3, 2008;

From the literature given out by the FCC





In response and interruption to that ad that was posted on, regarding the upcoming television transition;

POOR Magazine/POOR News Network has this to say:


Technology has arrived to a new age: The age of DTV. DTV stands for "digital television" and/or the broadcasting of digital television by local TV broadcasters. These signals are sent from local transmitters, over the air, to homes, by modern digital techniques, rather than the use of older "analog" methods, which are deemed as ineffective.

Since the mother and daughter team of the late great "Mama" Dee Gray, and her daughter, "Tiny" Lisa Gray-Garcia formed POOR Magazine/POOR News Network, in 1996; one of POOR's ultra-primary mission(s) is DIGITAL RESISTANCE against local, global, and media oppression who target people prone to poverty, every single day.

On February 17th, 2009, anyone in possession of a T.V set nationwide will be forced to watch all of their television broadcasting shows, by means of a digital converter box, as is the edict by U.S Congress. Without a DTV converter box, people will be unable to watch T.V, at all.

This digital "divide and conquer" quest is literally just around the corner. Every T.V station in the U.S is expected to switch their transmissions from analog T.V signals to digital signals. Wilmington, North Carolina became one of the first cities in the U.S to establish this digital transition, on September 8th, 2008,

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the nation's most foremost regulating authority on broadcast channels, and media toured three major neighborhood districts here in San Francisco, CA on September 11th, 2008: Chinatown, Mission, and Bayview District.

I attended the two of the hearings, starting with the one in the Mission District, since it was literally right up my alley of where I currently reside, on 16th/ Folsom St. As a digital resistor, I had a duty to "digitally resist" this action, by re-porting this news of a tremendous universal change to those who would be the most impacted!

I awoke in the very early morning of 4:45 a.m, and realized it was September 11th. (National Patriots Day) Many people here in the U.S. were going to be mourning the loss, and hold memorial services for the loss of the many casualties and loved ones of the tragic 9/11 Terror Attacks, back in 2001. As my heart went out to all of those families, back then, I got ready to re-port and su-pport in my usual POOR fashion..............right now.

The F.C.C/ DTV presentation in the Mission District, took place at the Mission Neighborhood Centers, at 3:00 p.m. The DTV reps were Jonathan Adelstein, a commissioner of F.C.C, Roger Goldblatt, also from F.C.C, Rachelle Chong, from the California Public Utilities Commission, Marcella Medina, Johnnie Giles of Comcast (cable television company), and San Francisco Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, of District 11.

Among the near-large capacity of people in attendance, were primarily Latino families, community members of the Mission, numerous media broadcasters, Eloise Lee and Tracy Rosenberg from Media Alliance, and myself from POOR Magazine. The DTV presentation was opened up by Maria Bermudez, Director of Operations for Mission Neighborhood Centers, welcoming everyone for their attendance.

"We are trying to spread the word of this transition to the communities that are going to be the most impacted." explained Rachelle Chong, of the California Public Utlities Commission. "The minorities, the elderly, and the disabled."

Jonathan Adelstein, of F.C.C presented a detailed summary of the offer of "coupons" by the U.S Government to its citizens for a discount of the DTV Box. (Despite the ailing economy's great financial losses, at the hands of the Bush Administration.)

"To help you with this program, the government is offering two coupons." Adelstein addressed. "However, they will expire in 90 days." He also pointed out that, "The converter boxes are costing from $50-$70 each. With these coupons, you can receive these boxes cheap." (The coupons look just like a credit card, even bearing the same shape.)






The DTV converter is similarly structured to a cable box. Un-coincidentally, Comcast has advertised for the F.C.C to the public, regarding the DTV transition. Adelstein also hopes that the DTV will allow Spanish language.

As he and the other DTV reps continued their presentation, Sofia Avala of Comcast, translated for the non-English speaking Latino community members, throughout the entire presentation.

The greatest concern(s) by communities struggling in poverty, low-income, and disabled folks at POOR Magazine is how this will ultimately affect them, since many of them barely have access to T.V in the first place?


"My point of view is that they (U.S Government) want to have control," a concerned community member had argued. "The manufacturers are profiting off of the coupons. The coupons are $40 for everyone in the U.S. The boxes are $48, so the $8 are coming out of pocket."

"The commissioners are basically saying "tough" they're just going to come out of pocket. Its not fair, I work with the community, and they're saying that they shouldn't have to give out of pocket." (The actual price for the DTV converter is $70.)

"I understand that that there will be some hardship, but that is just how its going to be." Adelstein stated, in relation to that concern. "Congress set up these rules, a couple of years ago."


In a website located online at, the site informs "consumers" that the digital broadcasts on February 17th, 2009 for the consumers, will be free (or advertiser-supported) to people who receive them via antennas are expected to remain free.

"Come on, let's be realistic. There are some people who still use clothes hangers for an antenna." I explained to them, regarding the affordablity of the DTV converter box, regardless of the offer of any coupons.

I even wondered what the boomerang effect would be against Corporate TV and mainstream media.This site also indicated, that it was possible of additional "pay" services might be launched in the future, but these are not expected to replace the free services offered today.

I asked Adelstein an alluded question, regarding DTV and the U.S Government's issue of control to many people here in the U.S: The use of spy devices and wiretapping into U.S American citizen's lives, allegedly for "terrorism purposes."

"My concern, which I'm sure is a concern by some, is that with everything going on nowadays with wiretapping from the U.S since 9/11 into people's phones, do you think that some are wondering what the government's true intention from wanting everyone's T.V to be switched to digital broadcast?"

Adelstein was somewhat evasive of that question, and didn't seem to answer much to the concern, other than an "I understand the concerns by many community members of this transition" speech. I noticed a slight smirk on the right side of his mouth, following my "wire tapping" question.

In the DTV presentation that occurred at the Bayview Opera House, in the Bayview Hunter's Point; I was joined by my fellow POOR comrades, Tony Robles, and POOR co-founder "Tiny" Lisa Gray-Garcia. Upon our arrival, there was a display demonstration taking place in the back, between a portable T.V, and another attached to a DTV converter.

The DTV reps were demonstrating to the Bayview community members just how better the picture quality, and reception would be once this transition comes into effect, on February 17th, 2009. Just like the presentation in the Mission, everyone was urged to register quickly for the DTV Discount Coupons, before the offer expired in 90 days.

Adelstein also mentioned that there was a shortage of these coupons, during the presentation. Malkia A. Cyril, from the Center for Media Justice, in Oakland opened up the presentation. Jonathan Adelstein, and Rachelle Chong were the only two DTV representatives on the panel.

"The government wants everyone to transition its 1950 model into DTV." Rachelle Chong explained to community members of Bayview Hunter's Point. "Wireless companies will have a part in the transition. Beneficial to the transition will be law enforcement and emergency E.M.Ts." ("Beneficial to to law enforcement?")


Chong infomed everyone the amount of money that Congress would be putting into the DTV program:1.5 Billion Dollars!

Someone raised an important question of "What if people have really old television sets?" Adelstein replied, "You don't have to have a brand new T.V to have a converter box.

The dialogue then took to a heated temperamental turn (for the better) when questions were raised to Adelstein, about F.C.C, and Congress's outreach to the communities (especially those in poverty), nationwide.

Adelstein and Chong suggested to members of the Bayviewcommunity that THEY should be the ones to take up this responsibility. "We hope that everyone who are here on behalf of the community, who have concerns can help."

“This is digital Aparthieid, certain people will get access and thousands won’t,” Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia form POOR Magazine/PNN spoke directly to the small group of commissioners, “there are literally thousands of elders, disabled folks, adults living in Single Room Occupancy Hotels and incarcerated folks who will lose access to a life-line and not be able to go through the hoops of technology, resources and information to get these boxes or afford cable, not to mention thousands of incarcerated folks who aren’t going to get access for years at best.”

Gray-Garcia concluded by turning to the Comcast representatives in the room, “What are you doing here? Why is your literature all over the chairs? Are you going to help the thousands of poor folks cut out of channels of access to get access?”

The mood shifted to a heated 360 degree angle, from both Adelstein and Chong, after Tiny began her near-expletive address to Adelstein, Chong, U.S Congress, and Comcast's"inablity" to outreach more thoroughly into poor communities of color, nationwide.


"Outreaching to people with disabilities, seniors, non-English speakers, fixed income households and low-income families is a concern we share with the Federal Communications Commission." said Eloise Lee, of Media Alliance, following the DTV presentation.

Eloise concluded, "But we must also educate communities and each other about what can happen, once the digital transition takes place. A tiered system of communication and access to information is being set up right before our eyes. We must safeguard our airwaves and our right to information from corporations and broadcasters that seek to make a profit out of this transition."

"And that no one may buy or sell except he who has the mark or name of the Beast, or the number of his name" (Rev:13:16-17)


Sign-up for POOR email!