One of the best tools available during the DTV transition test run in Wilmington NC was the analog echo available on over-the-air television stations. Seen only by consumers who had failed to take the necessary steps to continue receiving television service, it was the perfect location to provide the critical information necessary to bring them up to speed. Legislation to make this a feature of the full transition has been introduced by in the Senate by Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and in the House by Lois Capps (D-CA). The measures have now received a strong endorsement from the NAB Television Board.
The board issues a resolution, stating, “We support Congressional action including S. 3663 and H.R. 7013 to provide for a voluntary extension of analog broadcasting beyond the date of February 17, 2009, only to provide additional time for consumers to be educated about the DTV Transition and receive emergency information. This voluntary commitment would apply only to stations where the continuation of the analog signal is technically feasible. The NAB will work closely with the FCC in implementing a reasonable program taking into account local stations’ technology and market specifics.”
Another key feature of the Wilmington experiment was the FCC call center, where many of the analog-viewing left-behinds turned to for help. The NAB has requested that the FCC make sure it has a robust phone response team in place and ready to go. NAB suggests that a healthy portion of the extra $20M in funding from Congress be invested in this effort.
Warning of a massive number of calls, NAB wrote, “As our recent experience in Wilmington, N.C., demonstrated, consumers will still have many questions as the transition date approaches. Because the FCC Call Center is a primary information source, I urge you to devote a significant amount of this new DTV consumer education funding to this critical government function of responding to viewers’ questions.”
RBR/TVBR observation: We realize that this isn’t exactly the perfect time to ask Congress if it can spare any loose change, but a lot of viewers will likely be unable to receive televised information about the Wall Street crisis if legislators do not redirect a few millions of the billions of bailout cash to making sure the FCC and NTIA can stay on top of this transition.