DTV on the doorstep


With the days ticking down, the FCC engages in mythbusting, and advises stations that they need to direct consumers seeking aid to the appropriate source. Meanwhile, Acting FCC Chair Michael Copps heads for Los Angeles, the Red Cross weighs in on emergency plans and another US senator sends out friendly advice to constituents.

The FCC put out one of its series of countdown releases, advising consumers that their analog receiver will still work after 6/12/09, if the proper steps have been taken, that is, hooking it to a converter box or an MVPD provider, and observes that a converter box will not offer high-def programming. FCC also noted that some consumers will lose over-air access to some channels undergoing contour changes. It advises consumers that assistance will be available in some locations though July, and that there is no special class of antenna that applies to pulling in a digital signal.

The FCC issues a release reminding all television stations that they need to have local and national phone numbers ready to offer to consumers seeking information, and warned them to expect to be answering the phone quite a bit themselves in the days immediately following the transition. Personnel capable of answering complex consumers questions should be on hand.

Copps is in Los Angeles, one of the more challenged DMAs, with a sprawling coverage area and large ethnic population. His goal is to help bring consumers there up to speed in the last few days. “In recent months the number of unprepared households has been cut in half. But with only four days remaining, there are still many viewers in Los Angeles who are not ready for the digital transition. According to the most recent Nielsen data, approximately 15.3% of households (862,650 households) in the Los Angeles market rely entirely on over the air broadcasts and 4.69% of households in that market were not ready for the DTV transition. I look forward to communicating with these viewers during my visit to LA,” he said.

The American Red Cross is preparing citizens for hurricane season, as well as for other natural disasters, and echoed a recent FCC warning about battery-operated television sets used for emergencies. If a citizen is relying on an analog set, it will of course cease to function after 6/12/09, unless a converter box with its own independent power source is hooked up to it. ARC referred citizens to the FCC’s DTV website for more info.

Sen. Kaye Bailey Hutchison, Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee, called for those who are ready to lend a helping hand to those who are not. “If you are prepared, please take time to assist others, particularly friends, family, and neighbors who may be unable to obtain a converter box or need assistance installing one. This technological change is an important development, but it need not be overwhelming. If we work together to ensure our own preparations and assist others with theirs, Friday, June 12 can go smoothly for the hundreds of thousands of Texans this change will impact.”

RBR/TVBR observation: Out of all of this, probably the most important thing to keep in mind is your telephone system. If you are not prepared to handle a deluge of calls, your life may be quite miserable in the immediate aftermath of the transition.