Obama wants shift, NAB comes out strong for DTV deadline


The incoming Obama administration has come out for a delay in the DTV transition date, citing the stalled coupon program and a lack of effective consumer education. Transition team co-chair John Podesta said as much in a letter to legislators, expressing fears that too many over-air viewers will be left behind as matter stand now.

One of the most recent estimates, from Nielsen for December 2008, shows that 6.8% of US television households, or 7.8M, are completely unprepared for the switch (meaning they neither have a digital television, do not have a converter box, and do not subscribe to an MVPD service).

The National Association of Broadcasters said that every effort should be made to get converter box coupons into the hands of consumers that need them. But that does not mean changing the deadline. It wants an all systems go 2/17/09 as planned.

"NAB and broadcasters nationwide are committed to being ready by February 17 and strongly support a solution that would enable the government to continue making converter box coupons available to consumers who rely on free television,” said NAB’s Dennis Wharton. “We continue to urge Congress to act swiftly to ensure coupons are made available for those who need them.”

Wharton continued, "Broadcasters have been and will continue to be committed to doing everything in our power to make this transition work to ensure that viewers continue to have access to the important news and information that free, local television provides. The debate and discussion over the DTV transition only highlights the enduring value and popularity of free and local television."

RBR/TVBR observation: As we stated yesterday, delaying the deadline will simply delay the pain – and there is going to be pain no matter when the switch on analog is thrown to the off position. Congress has numerous options to keep things moving; including some that won’t necessarily cost any more money than is already allocated. If it was us, we’d err on the spendthrift side for this once-in-a-lifetime spectrum migration. But we wouldn’t change the date.