Television Distress

I know that some of the stuff on TV is pretty bad, but I’m not sure that it’s cause for a distress signal.

CORVALLIS — When Chris van Rossman moved into his downtown apartment about a year ago, his parents bought him a new 20-inch color TV with all the bells and whistles.

The flat-screen Toshiba came with its own set of stereo speakers, a 181-channel tuner, built-in VCR, DVD and CD players, a V-chip for parental control over content and, of course, a remote control.

Van Rossman, unfortunately, does not have cable and can only get four channels in his apartment. He mostly watches Oregon Public Broadcasting, which comes in clearest, and he’s acquired a taste for OPB children’s programming.

Maybe the television suffered an identity crisis. Maybe it aspired to higher things.

Whatever the reason, van Rossman’s TV set sent out a cry for help. It began emitting the international distress signal on the night of Oct. 2.

The 121.5 MHz frequency signal was picked up by an orbiting search and rescue satellite, which informed the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

Then again, maybe it was the programming.  Public Television would drive me over the edge pretty quickly.  He’s got a good incentive to keep it off now, though, given the potential for a $10,000/day fine.  And wouldn’t you know, the warranty had just run out?

An inspection of the television confirmed it was the source of the signal. “Their equipment was just bouncing everywhere as they turned it on and off,” van Rossman said.

Van Rossman was instructed to keep his TV turned off or face fines of up to $10,000 per day for emitting a false distress signal.

He’s not taking any chances. He’s keeping the television unplugged just in case he forgets one morning, groggy with sleep.

Unfortunately, the warranty on the TV had run out 16 days before it started freaking out.

Even though it’s out of warranty, Toshiba has promised to provide him a new TV for free.  I suspect that they’re anxious to get their hands on the old one to try to figure out what’s wrong with it.  If there’s a problem with the design there could be a lot more TVs out there that potentially have the same problem. 

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