DTV transition nearly a nonevent

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The airwaves and newspapers were not filled with DTV horror stories this weekend, a rousing tribute to the successful accomplishment of the biggest technical paradigm change in US history. Interested parties had whittled down the number of US citizens in danger of losing service for months, and when push came to shove 6/12/09, the change went very smoothly, for the most part. But authorities are still on the job dealing with those left behind. One way to help those challenged consumers is with nightlight stations remaining in analog for a time. For Copps’ full statement and a list of stations, click the headline.


The FCC fielded 317,450 calls on Friday alone, and answered about 700K going back to 6/8/09. Agents spent an average of 8.4 minutes with each caller, yet managed to get through the onslaught with an average customer wait time of only 4.6 minutes. For callers speaking Spanish, the average wait was only 1.8 minutes.

“I am pleased with the way our FCC team responded to the technical challenges that arose throughout the course of the day,” said Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps.  “But our job is far from over.  This transition is not a one-day affair.  We have known about re-scanning and reception issues for some time and have been doing our best to get the word out. We will continue to work with every consumer who needs assistance in making this important and necessary transition.”

The FCC pinpointed the five markets making the most calls (with a 1K call minimum to qualify). Leading the pack was Chicago, followed by the Dallas-Ft. Worth, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

As of 8PM Friday, the NAB was reporting an extraordinarily low average volume of calls going directly to television stations. At 250 where it was keeping tabs, that average was only 121.

NAB Vice President for Digital Television Jonathan Collegio said, “America is the first large country in the world to complete the transition to all-digital broadcasting, and our early reports show that the transition has been a success. Television broadcasters, from local stations to major networks, took the lead in educating and prompting viewers to take advantage of the numerous benefits of free digital television. The broadcaster campaign elevated public awareness from 38 percent to over 98 percent in two short years. Millions of households across the country are now enjoying dramatically better pictures and sound in digital compared to what they were able to see and hear on their TV sets for the past several decades. Free high definition broadcasts are available in every market in the country with just an antenna and an HDTV set.”

The FCC is continuing to take calls. It is expected that many left behinds don’t yet know their fate, if they’re on vacation or otherwise have been away from their television set. And a number of stations are continuing to broadcast in analog, directing left behind consumers to help. A list of those stations is available in the article attachment box to the right:

RBR/TVBR observation: We predicted back in December that the DTV transition would be a splashy story for a couple of weeks, but it would generally go very smoothly and would not be any big deal. It seems to have gone even easier than we suspected. The only thing we got wrong was the date – we of course thought it would happen 2/17/09.

RBR/TVBR note: How did DTV go at your station and market – Have a comment, Post it Below or try our new forum the RBR/TVBR Community Forum Boards