Adelstein Praises Analog-to-Digital Converter Box

RCA, LG Electronics, Samsung Demonstrate Products at FCC Public Forum on DTV Transition

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein gave RCA's digital-to-analog converter box a vote of confidence at the Federal Communications Commission's public forum on the digital-TV transition Wednesday.

Adelstein said the box was simple to use, praising the one-touch closed-captioning function and bilingual instructions.

The box -- and others from manufacturers including LG Electronics and Samsung -- was being demonstrated at FCC headquarters as part of the forum. Adelstein said it was probably the clearest demonstration he had ever had of the improved picture quality. "Only 300 million more people to go," he added.

Adelstein reiterated his call for more coordination of the DTV-transition-education campaign between the FCC and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which is administering the government subsidy for digital-to-analog converter boxes.

Adelstein has called for a task force to coordinate the message, but he said Wednesday that even if it is in a more informal setting like the FCC forum, more coordination was needed so that there would not be a tidal wave of complaints. "If we do succeed," he added, "gratitude from the American people will come in the form of silence."

FCC chairman Kevin Martin said the forum would be the first of a series of such forums at the commission dealing with different aspects of the transition.

Martin took the opportunity to plug the benefits of multicasting. He said it would provide more local news and information, which, he added, is a particularly important issue as regards to the FCC's media-ownership regulations.

Martin has pushed for mandatory multicast must-carry so that cable operators would have to carry those multiple broadcast programming streams to the 85% or so of TV viewers who get cable or satellite.

The NTIA held a similar forum Tuesday and Tony Wilhelm, who is running the consumer-education campaign for the converter-box program, told the FCC audience that more than 100 people walked off the street to attend.

Wilhelm said the NTIA would be ready to start redeeming the $40 coupons Jan. 1. Each household can apply -- by phone, mail or online -- for up to two coupons toward two converter boxes (the coupons can't be combined). The boxes allow viewers with analog-only sets to receive DTV signals.

Wilhelm said Ketchum Communications will handle public relations for the coupon program (IBM was contracted to handle distribution of the coupons). "I think this is going to be a smooth transition," he added confidently.