FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein wants the FCC to create a national DTV task force, working in concert with the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, to educate consumers about the DTV transition.
That was his message to a tech-savvy group at a Consumer Electronics Association Entertainment Technology Policy Summit in Washington (co-sponsored by B&C).
NTIA is charged with administering an up to $1.5 billion program to subsidize digital-to-analog converter boxes for analog-only sets that will otherwise go dark when the nation switches to all-digital TV in 2009. It also has up to $5 million for an awareness campaign.
Adelstein said it was vital for the industry to do a better job of letting consumers know that their analog TV's won't be working in three years--at least not without a converter box.
He said that his CEA summit audience was part of a small group of people who understood the nuances of the transition, but that there was an urgent need to transfer this inside-the-Beltway discussion into a coordinated consumer education campaign.
"If we don't get this right," he said, "we face a tsunami of public outrage." In fact, one of the reasons Congress made the transition date Feb. 17 rather than Jan. 1, 2009, was to get the date past the college football bowl games and Super Bowl, according to some Hill observers.
Adelstein said that since the FCC launched its DTV portal in October 2004, they have had 2.5 million hits, or about 100,000 hits per month."Essentially people need to know how to get 'my DTV' and what's in it for me," he said. To steal a page from Dire Straights, he said, the industry's slogan should be I Want My DTV.Adelstein said that, with digital TV, there is no clear chain of command for who is responsible for preventing that tsunami.He also said that more money needed to be earmarked for an education campaign, saying that although NTIA got $5 million, he wasn't clear on whether that was for general awareness of specifically for promoting the converter box subsidy.In a panel discussion on the DTV transition after Adelstein's speech, industry executives were asked whether a "DTV czar" was needed. The general consensus was no. Alan McCollough, chairman of Circuit City, said he is wary of a czar. The government is trying to regulate something consumers will do on their own, he said.