Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations

Why do I have to switch to DTV? An Analysis of Public Interest in the Digital Television Transition

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Oliver Boyd-Barrett (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Louisa Ha (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Melissa Spirek (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Apollos Nwauwa (Committee Member)


This study provides a critical investigation of the digital television transition in the United States using a Delphi panel. The panelists consisted of individuals from governmental, industrial, and societal backgrounds, representing the conceptualizations of public interest defined by Krugman and Reid (1980), Galtung (1999), and modified by Book (2004). The findings were analyzed using Rogers’ (2003) Diffusion of Innovations as the theoretical framework, particularly the perceived attributes of innovations in relation to public interest, adopter categories, and the innovation-decision process. Overall, the findings indicate that near-universal (98% of U.S. households) adoption of digital television will occur later than the previously proposed February 17, 2009 transition date and that the federal government’s decision to transition to an all-digital television system is not in the public’s interest. The research also found nine prominent issues facing viewers both during and after the digital television transition. Analyses of these, as well as the applicability of the diffusion framework for analyzing the digital television transition are presented.