Broadcasters must take more of the initiative in warning viewers about the upheaval of the switchover to digital TV, broadcasters were told at an NAB convention session Monday. They also heard praise for media consolidation.
That was the message from both industry lobbyists and Congressional staffers at the National Association of Broadcaster's annual convention Monday.
During a session on the array of policy issues facing broadcasters, panelists concentrated on the digital transition, which calls for broadcasters to turn off their analog transmitters February 2009, forcing consumers to either have new digital sets, digital cable (unless cable is allowed to downcovert its signal), or a set-top converter that will allow their analog sets to keep receiving networks like ABC and NBC.
The federal government has so far allocated just $5 million to educate the public.
"It's incumbent on the broadcasters to drive the awareness campaign," says Shaun Sheehan top lobbyist for broadcasters and newspaper publisher Tribune Co.
Whit Adamson, president of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, says he got a full dose of the confusion when purchasing an HDTV set recently, finding confusion about what the set can and cannot receive both at the retailer selling the set and his local cable operator.
"Everybody's got a long way to go," said Adamson.
Praise for industry consolidation came from a somewhat unlikely source: Adam Sharp, communications director for Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu.
In recounting the dramatic efforts of radio and TV stations to stay on the air during and after Hurricane Katrina, Sharp noted that local outlets carefully planned in advance and survived the huge financial losses afterwards only because New Orleans is dominated by large broadcasters.
"The market was saved by the fact that we had these large groups owning the stations," Sharp says. "Independent stations couldn't have stayed on the air."