Those are markets where either at least 100,000 viewers, or at least 15% of the viewers, get their TV over the air, according to FCC chairman Kevin Martin, who said Monday that at least one of the FCC commissioners would visit each of the markets -- he likened their selection of what cities each would visit to the National Football League draft -- adding that the National Association of Broadcasters agreed to help coordinate so-called analog-cutoff soft tests in those markets.
They include some of the largest markets in the country, among them Washington, D.C.; New York; Chicago; San Francisco; Denver, Phoenix; Nashville, Tenn.; Atlanta; Houston; and Baltimore (see below for full list).
Martin was at the Newseum in Washington Monday for a brief briefing on the DTV transition, which is only six months away.
It is only three weeks away for one market -- Wilmington, N.C. -- and Martin said one of the things the FCC learned in the run-up to the Sept. 8 turnoff of full-power analog in that market was that it needed to take further steps to help the markets with the highest number of over-the-air viewers.
Wilmington was picked as a test market in part because of the relatively low number of over-the-air viewers (about 7%) that would be potentially dislocated (its multichannel-video penetration is about 93%).
Martin said the commission would also send staffers to each of those markets and, more generally, would open a speakers' bureau to better educate everyone about the transition. The NAB already has a speakers' bureau as part of its education campaign, which it values at $1 billion.
He would not estimate the cost, but he said the effort was possible thanks to $12 million in education money recently reallocated by Congress. He added that the FCC may go back and ask for more money before this Congress ends.
Also in attendance was Barrington Broadcasting CEO James Yager, who spoke for the NAB, as well as top broadcast-group executives Alan Frank of Post-Newsweek Stations and David Barrett of Hearst-Argyle Television.
Yager praised the FCC as a "great partner" in the DTV-education effort and pledged the association's help in setting up the soft tests, in which stations pull the plug briefly on their analog signals or simply simulate the shutoff. The Wilmington stations are planning such a test for Tuesday, Aug. 19.
He added that about 30 stations have already conducted such tests, with "many more planned."
The markets most in need of educating, according to the FCC, are all over the map and the population-density tables.
At the end of the conference, Martin opened the floor for calls from local reporters from the affected markets to ask questions remotely. There were none, but there were also some technical difficulties with the sound, so that may have been a lack of opportunity rather than interest.
The markets are listed below:
Albuquerque-Santa Fe, N.M.
Charleston, W. Va.
Cleveland-Akron (Canton), Ohio
Colorado Springs-Pueblo, Colo.
Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
Des Moines-Ames, Iowa
El Paso, Texas (Las Cruces, N.M.)
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Mich.
Green Bay-Appleton, Wis.
Idaho Falls-Pocatello, Idaho
Joplin, Missouri-Pittsburg, Kan.
Kansas City, Mo.
La Crosse-Eau Claire, Wis.
Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.
Salt Lake City
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Calif.
South Bend-Elkhart, Ind.
Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.
Twin Falls, Idaho
Yuma, Arizona-El Centro, Calif.