According to a study commissioned by the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), the government has grossly underfunded a consumer DTV education campaign, particularly considering that the number of analog-only households does not appear to have significantly decreased over the past three years.
The results of the study were released Monday.
Democratic leaders in Congress, including John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), have complained of a lack of funding for a DTV education campaign, and the pace of the educational effort. They have recently pushed the FCC for information on its game plan for letting consumers know their analog-only sets will need a converter box or to be hooked up to satellite or cable if they are to work after the February 2009 cut-off of analog service.
Broadcasters, cable and the consumer electronics association are planning a campaign, and the FCC is requiring point-of-sale information that analog TV's will need held come 2009, but broadcasters, for one, argue that their public service announcement campaign should not start until the fall or even spring 2008.
The study found, according to APTS, that "left to their own devices, the 22 million American households that rely on free, over-the-air television will move slowly to adopt digital TV sets or subscribe to cable or satellite services."
"We need a Y2K-level effort," says John Lawson, president of APTS.
APTS says the research shows that the over-the-air household population has remained virtually unchanged between 2004 (22.6 million) and 2007 (22.5 million).
Of that 22 million-plus over-the-air households, only 7% own a digital TV, compared to 23% of cable and/or satellite subs.
"Consumers are generally unaware of the nature of the transition and do not fully know what the direct impact on their ability to watch TV will be," APTS concluded.
The study was a telephone poll of 36,000 U.S. TV viewers by research firm CENTRIS.