Consumers Union, NAB monitor DTV awareness


Watchdog Consumers Union, citing results of a survey it conducted in mid-December 2007, notes that only 18% of all US adults figure to lose television service 2/17/09 with analog broadcast television enters the history books, and conversely, almost two thirds of US adults are aware that the change is on its way. However, buried under those top-line numbers are others which are cause for concern. CU’s Chris Murray and Joel Kelsey met with reporters to share their results yesterday.

The National Association of Broadcasters released numbers from its own January 2008 study, which showed that 79% of its respondents were aware of the change. Among over-air-only households, NAB said awareness was even higher, at 83%. But the good news for NAB is that CU, which has often been critical of communications companies, is not taking broadcasters to task on this matter in any way, and at this time is calling for no actions from NAB members above and beyond what they are doing now — although that could change.

CU estimates that 15% of households are over-air only, and that 78% of them are still using analog receivers, and pegs the number of adults who will lose television service at 23M unless they take steps to remedy the situation. Another concern was expressed by MVPD subscribers who plan to retain analog equipment in the event that their MVPD service is out of commission — how will they access broadcast signals?

CU found that many who will be affected by the transition are as yet unaware of that fact, and that among those who do know the change is coming, there is a significant lack of understanding of the particulars. * 58% think every single TV set needs a converter box; 48% believe all TVs will have to be digital; 24% believe they will have to throw away analog TVs, which poses a possible environmental hazard’ 33% of homes that are already 100% digitally-equipped think they need a converter box; and 73% are unaware of government converter coupon program. The result is that many will buy stuff they don’t need at too high a price.

CU’s recommendation is that the government help consumers find the least expensive path to digital. CU believes that government has mandated the change, and it should spear-heading this. It said we should not rely on the stakeholder industries to do this by themselves.

The bottom line for CU is that programs must not be content with increasing awareness, they also need to education consumers so that they know what their options are and can choose the best, most cost-effective options.

It promised to repeat the survey several times as the year goes on, and may recommend air time mandates is confusion continues to reign.