Copps: National Media Have Under-Covered Transition Date Move

Acting FCC chairman praises trade press, bashes mainstream coverage of DTV move

The DTV Countdown: Continuing Coverage of the DTV Transition

FCC acting Chairman Michael Copps praised the trade press reporting of the move of the DTV hard date to June 12, but said he had found the national media coverage "more than a little wanting."

That came in the FCC's second open meeting under acting Chairman Michael Copps Thursday, which provided an update on the status of the DTV transition from government and industry, marking 100 days until the June 12 cut-off.

Copps said he had run into a lot of people who said that nothing was happening "transitionwise," saying that most Americans heard a "small snippet" of information, but "precious little" else. He said he was happy C-CSPAN was covering it, but asked other national media to follow suit.

Going forward, Copps emphasized that viewers needed to be informed. He said the two guiding principles will be putting the consumer first and telling them the truth. That truth is that the transition isn't over by a long shot and there will still be problems.

They don't want their information sugar coated, he said, or alarmist. He warned against creating a false sense of security that the transition will be less disruptive than it is, pointing out that while a third of the stations had pulled the plug on analog Feb. 17, those were smaller markets and only represented about 15% of the population.

Some will need new antennas. Let them know, said Copps. If some won't get a signal whatever they do, let them know, he said. With apologies to Jack Nicholson, he said, "they can handle the truth.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell agreed that the transition still had a ways to go. He said that the Feb. 17 date won't live in infamy, but he added that it was not necessarily a harbinger of things to come.

He pointed out that even in the markets where analog had been pulled, most viewers could still get some analog signals via an enhanced analog nightlight signal. Most major markets won't be transitioning until June 12, he said. "We're still grappling with some unknowns....when it comes, it will still be messy in some places.

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein made it unanimous, saying that the Feb. 17 move had been the down payment on the transition, and that June 12 would be the balloon payment, at the least intimating and at the most invoking the economic turmoil resulting from the mortgage crisis.