Commerce Chairs go straight to the top on DTV


Senate Commerce Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and House Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MA) aren’t messing around. They would like an interagency task force put together to oversee the final year’s run-up to the 2/17/09 DTV conversion, and have asked President George W. Bush to put it together. They warned, "If the transition is not successful, millions of American who rely solely on over-the-air broadcasts may be left in the dark." They would like Bush to put government resources "to help educate and prepare all Americans for this potentially disruptive change in our broadcasting system." They would make the FCC the lead agency.

They received instant support from FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein (D), who said, "For over a year now, I’ve been urging the FCC to create a federal interagency task force with NTIA and the many other federal agencies involved, such as the Administration on Aging, Health and Human Services, and the Veterans Administration. It is long overdue for the federal government to coordinate our efforts. This multi-agency task force would develop benchmarks and a timeline to achieve nationwide awareness and give consumers the tools they need to have a smooth transition. It would be accountable to Congress and the American people. The DTV chain of communication has many weak links principally because we never created a coordinating mechanism between government, industry and the public. Communication is the FCC’s middle name, but we haven’t lived up to it. As the Government Accountability Office found, the FCC does not have a plan, and nobody is in charge. And as a result, there is not coordinated, national effort to educate the American people about the details and they need to deal with the transition."

TVBR/RBR observation: Given the often glacial pace of action in Washington, the establishment of this task force could easily be accomplished by April or May. We’re just not sure it would be April or May of 2008. It may be wiser to identify an FCC staffer already performing an executive role in the transition and name this person DTV coordinator, someone who can stay on top of the activities of various stakeholders and the reports and studies being done by some of the watchdogs; make a list of tasks to be accomplished and benchmarks to meet along the way; and report frequently to Congress and the stakeholders on how it’s going.

We would allocate to this most unfortunate person a year’s supply of highly caffeinated coffee and a heavy-duty brewing machine, all on the government’s tab.