With President George W. Bush making the DTV transition hard date a reality with a signing ceremony Wednesday of a larger budget bill, The Benton Foundation is now pushing for a commitment to new DTV-related public interest obligations.
Capitol Broadcasting's Jim Goodmon and the foundation's Charles Benton were both members of a media working group of the FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC). On Nov. 18, the committee approved recommendations for new broadcast public interest obligations in the digital age that include setting quantifiable obligations and disclosure requirements.
Among the recommended obligations are diversity of DTV programming providers, outlets and employment, closed captioning and video description.
"The actions -- and billions of dollars -- set in motion by the President's signature will all be for naught," said Charles Benton Wednesday,"if the FCC continues to ignore the compact between local broadcasters and the communities they are licensed to serve. Now is the time for the FCC to get its act together and to complete its work."
National Association of Broadcasters President David Rehr praised the bill's passage: ""With today's enactment of the budget reconciliation bill and its digital television provisions, we have crossed an important threshold. NAB is pleased that Congress adopted many pro-consumer DTV measures in the legislation, and we're encouraged that the bill thwarted cable industry attempts to degrade the quality of HDTV pictures to consumers."A House version of the bill initially allowed cable to convert an HDTV signal to standard DTV, but that and other provisions were struck to square with Senate rules preventing non-spending or revenue language in budget reconciliation bills. The DTV bill was part of a larger budget bill becuase of the billions in revenues to the treasury represented by the analog spectrum that will be returned to the government for auction after the switch to digital.Currently, TV stations are broadcasting on both and analog and digital channel.The Benton Foundation has produced a handy timeline for the DTV transition, which can be found at http://www.benton.org/index.php?q=node/1257