FCC on all cylinders for final pre-DTV month


With less than a month to go, the FCC is prepared to do everything it can to close the DTV unreadiness gap. In the final sprint to the finish line, it will focus its efforts on at-risk segments of the population and in DMAs with the highest concentrations of unprepared households. Acting Chairman Michael Copps promises the Commission will “work overtime” to minimize the number left behind.

Copps said, “Television is a primary source for news, weather and public safety information for many Americans so the FCC is working overtime to reach those remaining viewers who still have not taken the necessary action to continue to receive television programming after June 12. Consumers should know that help is available through a wide range of sources – including the phone, the Internet, walk-in centers and clinics, and in-home assistance.”

Six segments of the population will be getting special attention: low-income individuals, minority communities, non-English speaking consumers, senior citizens, consumers with disabilities and individuals living in rural areas or tribal lands.

Here are some other items in the endgame plan:

* 180 FCC staffers will fan out to the 49 least prepared DMAs to assist local government and service organizations deal with the transition.

* The dtv.gov website will be made more useful and user-friendly.

* The several hundred operators now answering questions at 1-888-CALL-FCC will increase to as many as 4K as the deadline approaches.

* The FCC and Consumers Union are teaming up to distribute a 15-page consumers guide called “DTV Made Easy,” available for downloading or as hard-copy by calling the number above.

* Execution of a nationwide soft test 5/21/09.

* Distribution of PSAs coinciding with the soft test to be used down to the deadline.

With just 30 days to go until the rescheduled analog TV shut-off, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein calls it “déjà vu all over again” because it seems “some  3.5 million unprepared households still refuse to believe that the June 12th transition date will hold.” He’s applauding the plan by the FCC, NAB, networks and broadcast groups to conduct a nationwide DTV “soft test” next week, Thursday, May 21, so viewers can see whether or not they are prepared for the transition.

RBR/TVBR observation: We were mightily impressed by the way Copps grabbed the reins of the DTV transition when he ascended to the FCC chair. He was decisive, swift and effective. We expect that under his stewardship the FCC will get the most out of its resources as the final days of analog broadcast are stripped off the wall calendar.