FCC, Industry Out of Sync on DTV Conversion

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Government and industry may agree on the importance of informing consumers about the looming transition to digital television. But when it comes to counting the days until the deadline, they’re out of sync.

Both the FCC and the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV), the broadcast industry’s spectrum watchdogs, display ominous countdown clocks on their Websites. At press time, however, the two were a day apart—and it seems the government’s clock is the one in error.

The FCC’s DTV site, dtv.gov, states that analog broadcasts may continue "through February 17, 2009." But according to its clock, zero hour comes at midnight on Feb. 16, a day earlier.

MSTV is confident that its clock at mstv.org—which is counting down to 11:59:59 p.m., Feb. 17, 2009—is right. Because the clock adjusts to individual computers’ internal clocks, it may vary by several seconds, says MSTV’s Web guru. "But I’m a lot closer than a day off."

Given that the deadline floated between the Senate-proposed April 7, 2009, and the House-preferred Dec. 31, 2008, before landing on Feb. 17, the confusion is unsurprising.

A spokesperson concedes that the FCC’s clock is off and says the commission is working to correct it.

For instructions on testing the clocks yourself, go to broadcastingcable.com.