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With John Eggerton, Marisa Guthrie and Ben Grossman

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CBA: Martin, Dingell Miss Low-Power Signals

When it comes to spreading the word about the digital-TV transition, the federal government appears to be taking the "Liberty Valance" approach: Broadcast the legend.

Both FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) have made PSAs for the Dish satellite network that perpetuate the myth that all television stations in the U.S. will switch to digital in February 2009.

Not quite. As the Community Broadcasters Association has taken pains to point out, thousands of the low-power stations it represents will still be broadcasting in analog, some for several years after the Feb. 17, 2009, hard date.

The CBA was especially miffed about Dingell's PSA, since his staff had complained about a CBA-produced spot that was critical of the government's inattention to the low-power issue.

But a CBA lobbyist told us he has since learned from Dingell's staff that the PSA was cut before the congressman "was aware of our plight." And a spokesperson for the House committee assures us that "Chairman Dingell is aware of and sensitive to CBA's concerns and is making every effort to clearly discuss which stations will be transitioning to digital on February 17."

An FCC spokesperson had no comment on Martin's PSA, which has been posted to YouTube ("FCC Chair Martin Misleads Consumers About DTV Transition"). But a CBA source says the commission "was trying to correct all [DTV] communication, including that spot."

Night Owl

Jeremy Hubbard clearly picked the wrong time to quit drinking coffee.

In March, Hubbard became the newest insomniac on ABC News' overnight newscasts, World News Now, at 2 a.m., and America This Morning, at 4:30 a.m.

"I think I make sense," he jokes. "The goal is to talk in complete sentences."

Previously a correspondent for ABC's affiliate service, NewsOne, and an anchor/reporter for KDVR Denver, Hubbard is confident he'll be sharp when news breaks at 3 a.m. But he knows how easy it is to get a little daffy on the graveyard shift.

After all, his predecessors at ABC News Now, Ryan Owens and Taina Hernandez, won some unwanted attention when a series of YouTube clips showed them laughing through segments on Owen Wilson's suicide attempt and the death toll from floods in Texas.

Hubbard declined to comment on the duo's antics, but he believes there's room for a bit of levity in the wee hours. "People don't expect you to be so buttoned up," he says. "I think the idea is to do the news and not take myself quite so seriously."

Sure enough, Hubbard and crew announced last week that the show was moving to daytime —only to confess the next day that it was an April Fools gag.

Or perhaps wishful thinking.

Buy American

Fox Soccer Channel may be growing its viewership thanks to soccer matches broadcast from England, Italy and elsewhere abroad. But the cable net's new on-air promos are zeroing in on the good old U.S. of A.—or at least its struggling economy.

"Your country needs you!" it reads. "Help the economy and spend your government stimulus check on cool gear at FoxSoccerShop.com."

The idea for the campaign came to Fox Soccer Channel Executive VP and General Manager David Sternberg two weeks ago after he received an IRS notice about the government's forthcoming stimulus payments.

And with the U.S. team about to begin qualifying matches for the next World Cup, Sternberg decided to appeal to viewers' sense of national pride. "We figured it's every American's duty to help revive the economy," he joked.

As long as that duty involves buying an American soccer jersey from the FoxSoccerShop.com.

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