NAB Cheers DTV-Transition Legislation


NAB Monday praised legislation introduced to boost DTV transition education efforts.

The bill , sponsored by Joe Barton (Tex), Fred Upton (Mich.), and Dennis Hastert (Ill.), former House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman, Telecommunications Subcommittee chairman and speaker, respectively, deals primarily with educational requirements for broadcasters, TV-set retailers and the FCC.

Among other things, it requires broadcasters to file regular updates with the FCC on its progress in consumer education on the digital switch, in which analog TV sets without built-in tuners or converter boxes will no longer work for over-the-air reception after Feb. 17, 2009. Of course, the FCC's tuner mandate kicks in March 1, which means not sets are supposed to be sold without DTV tuners anyway.

According to the bill, the FCC, too, must do consumer outreach--it has already planned on doing so--advised by a working group made up of government and industry representatives. The FCC, in turn, will have to provide regular reports to Congress on the DTV transition's progress.

Legislators want to make sure they are not facing a flood of angry consumers/voters come the 2009 analog cut-off.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said last week that the FCC has asked for more money in its budget for DTV outreach.

The bill also requires cable and satellite companies to include DTV transition information with their bills, even though the legislators say that "Cable and satellite subscribers will be largely unaffected by the transition."

For their part, TV set retailers would have to label analog TVs.

NAB praised the Republicans for proposing the bill "aimed at educating America's television viewers about the ongoing digital transition," saying it welcomed any effort in that direction. It is unclear what traction the bill will have given that it is being introduced by a trio of now-minority members, though the Democrats, too, are concerned about DTV education.

A DTV transition bill passed last year as part of an omnibus spending bill set aside only $5 million for a transition eduction campaign. National Telecommunications & Information Administration head John Kneuer has pointed out that that is only a drop in the bucket and that industry will have to help, which NAB has pledged to do.

Earlier this month, NAB named a DTV transition team for the association who will make that education campaign a priority.