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INTRODUCTION

Cartoon TVThe Federal Communications Commission has mandated that by the year 2006 all TV transmission will be digital. Most homes in the United States have more than one television set and most of those sets are analog not digital, Analog TVs are not capable of receiving digital transmission.

PROCESS

Activity 1

1. What will happen to all of the analog TVs after 2006 when they are no longer useful?

According to the Federal Communication Commission's November 1998 "Digital Television Consumer Information" bulletin, digital television will "...allow television to enter the digital world of the personal computer and the Internet."

With digital transmission a TV broadcaster will be able to:

  • send multiple programming at the same time over the same channel,
  • improve the quality of the transmission with options not available with analog transmission,
  • offer digital data services which will allow the TV broadcaster to send out virtual newspapers and other types of services directly to your TV.

Activity 2Tape

  1. Have you ever listened to music on a cassette player? What about a CD player? Is there a difference between the quality and options of these two types of electronic devices?
  2. How is the difference between analog and digital TV similar to the difference between cassettes and CDs?

The "problem" is that when people switch from their old analog TVs to the new digital TVs those old analog TVs will be thrown out.

Did you know that there are parts of a TV that are very toxic to the environment. Listen to this Living on Earth segment on the environmental hazards of TV disposal :"Toxic Television Disposal": Living on Earth 2/18/00. www.loe.org/shows/shows.htm?programID=00-P13-00007#feature3

Activity 3

  1. How many analog TVs are there in the United States?
  2. TV recycling is expensive. Why?
  3. What is the cost to society if TVs are not recycled?
  4. In Europe, the governments require the auto manufacturers to "take back" cars for recycling. Why do you think governments require companies to do this?
  5. Would a "take back" program make both consumers and producers think more seriously about the disposal of old TVs?
  6. The electronics industry opposes "take back" regulations. How effective do you think a voluntary "take back" program between business and the community would be?
  7. Is Envirocycle a government required program, a voluntary program between business and the community, or a private for-profit business?

ASSESSMENT ACTIVITY

We have a problem!

Millions of analog TVs are going to be thrown out in the next decade and someone is going to have to pay. If these TVs are not safely recycled their disposal will cause damage to the environment. Who should pay for analog TV disposal?

  • Who should pay for analog TV disposal?
  • The people who are throwing the TVs away?
  • The companies that originally manufactured the TVs?
  • Taxpayers?

Should those paying be forced to do so through taxation or government regulation or should they be encouraged through education and information programs?

  • Should the local government charge higher refuse taxes to those disposing of analog TVs?
  • Should the state or federal government place strict "take back" regulations on TV manufacturers?
  • Should communities devise their own plans of voluntary "take back" using schools and other community organizations to inform the public?

Evaluate the following alternative solutions to this problem.

1. Print and complete the following table by identifying the costs and benefits to society of each possible solution.

Here is a link to the chart below in the form of a handout Problem: WHO should pay for analog TV disposal? HOW? (Printable Version - PDF 52K)

Problem: WHO should pay for analog TV disposal? HOW?

Alternative Solution 1: What are the costs to society of this solution? What are the benefits to society of this solution?
The local government charges higher refuse taxes to those disposing of analog TVs.    
Alternative Solution 2: What are the costs to society of this solution? What are the benefits to society of this solution?
The government place strict "take back" regulations on TV manufacturers.    
Alternative Solution 3: What are the costs to society of this solution? What are the benefits to society of this solution?
Communities devise their own voluntary "take back" plans.    
Alternative Solution 4: What are the costs to society of this solution? What are the benefits to society of this solution?
Do nothing. When damage to the environment occurs taxpayers can pay for the cleanup costs.    

2. Which solution provides the most benefit at the least cost to society?
3. Enter your choice in the following survey and compare it to the choices made by other students who have completed this lesson.

Take Survey

EXTENSION ACTIVITY

  1. Contact your local cable provider and ask what the provider's plans are for digital television conversion.
  2. Contact your local recycling center and inquire about TV recycling. Does the center pick up TVs for free? How does the center dispose of TV sets it picks up?
  3. Contact a retail outlet that sells televisions? Does it sell digital TVs? Are more people buying digital TVs?
  4. Complete a neighborhood survey of TV ownership and knowledge of the digital TV transmission switch in 2006.
  5. Contact a U.S. Senator or congressional representative and inquire as to his or her position on "take back" requirements for TV manufacturers.
  6. Develop other solutions that a community might consider as they begin the process of dealing with this disposal issue.