When John Dingell (D-MI) and Ed Markey (D-MA) have a concern about the broadcasting matters these days, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and colleagues Michael Copps (D), Jonathan Adelstein (D), Deborah Taylor Tate (R) and Robert McDowell (R) can be sure that they'll hear (or read) about it. The two key members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are concerned about the DTV transition, and in particular, "…the present lack of leadership, direction and focus at the Federal level [which] is jeopardizing the transition," which is how they put it in a letter to all five Commissioners.
They said they were glad the FCC is requiring warnings about the imminent demise of analog-only televisions at retail outlets, but are concerned that there is no "…articulation or movement toward a comprehensive consumer education program, with a unified message, a clear chain of command, concrete and measurable goals, and mechanisms for oversight and accountability." They note that in Germany, the city of Berlin alone spent nearly 1M to educate 3M citizens. They wonder how the FCC proposes to accomplish the feat of educating 300M geographically-diverse citizens with only 1.5M. They want an outreach plan on these and other issues by 6/11/07 complete with an implementation date and detailed plans, including a full accounting of how it will spend its 1.5M.
TVBR observation: We predicted at the beginning of the year that the new Democratic Congress may well want to spend much more than 1.5M on consumer DTV outreach. And we have to say, it's not very often that a bureaucrat is chastised for not requesting enough of the taxpayer's hard-earned cash. This will be interesting to follow. It is, of course, in broadcasters' interest to get as much help from the FCC as possible in educating the public about the big change.