In the House Telecommunications Subcommittee meeting Wednesday, Best Buy admitted that the company does not have any warning labels on it's analog-only sets to inform potential buyers that the sets will not work without a converter box after the DTV transition in 2008, according to Michael Vitelli, senior VP of Best Buy.
This admission did not make House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) very happy.
Former Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.)--who co-sponsored a bill in Congress that would require warning labels and a consumer education campaign--agreed with Markey's disappointment.
Former Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) asked how many of the witnesses at a Wednesday hearing on the DTV transition would support the label bill proposed by Upton. The bill included a May 1 deadline to launch the education campaign. There were no supporters.
James Yager of Barrington Broadcasting said he would not support the bill because he thought May was too early to launch a campaign since the analog-to-digital converter boxes would not be in stores until early 2008. He suggested November 2007 for beginning to ramp up that education campaign.
Barton said that they were willing to work with that date, but thought it important to pass a bill establishing the outlines of the education campaign. A similar outline was passed as part of the House version of the DTV transition bill in the last Congress, but it was stripped out in the Senate,
Markey seemed even more offput by Vitelli's refusal to promise that all his stores would stock analog-to-digital converter boxes. "The right answer is yes," he advised. But when he asked Vitelli again, he would not commit to carrying them.
Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) asked whether there should be concern that retailers would be discouraging people from getting the converters so that they would, instead, buy more expensive DTV sets.
Vitelli said no. But he did say that applications for government coupons to subsidize the converters would be in every store, a commitment that drew praise from Dingell.