Both Commerce Committees have now put the DTV transition on their dance card, but the real dancing may be coming from NTIA officials, since both the Senate and House have circled 10/17/07. The House will also be playing stakeholder trick or treat on 10/31/07. Meanwhile, Herb Kohl (D-WI) is introducing a new bill on the subject.
Both the NTIA and FCC have been invited to the House 10/17 session. While the Senate notice mentions only NTIA’s converter box coupon program specifically, it promises to look into "other issues related to a smooth and effective transition to digital television."
Kohl, chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, is introducing "Preparing Seniors for the Digital Television Transition Act of 2007," out of fear that not enough people are aware of the upcoming change and that government agencies involved in the transition are not operating in a coordinated fashion.
"First and foremost, the bill would formalize a partnership between the FCC, NTIA, and the Administration on Aging (AoA) with specific reporting requirements," said Kohl. "The purpose of the partnership would be to coordinate with a diverse advisory board of stakeholders representing broadcasters, aging advocates, disability groups, rural Americans, and state and local governments to craft a national consumer education campaign targeting older individuals who depend on analog TV."
The bill would also change the couponing strategy by prioritizing over-air households, and would provide grant money for local organizations which would specifically help seniors get from analog to digital, and would require PSAs from various stakeholders.
TVBR observation: Hmmmmmmm. More legislation. Every now and then we see a bill speed through Congress like an Olympic sprinter. More often, it snails though Congress, leaving a slime trail of time-consuming hearings, irrelevant amendments and arcane parliamentary tactics. So if and when this bill gets to President Bush for a signature, we’re then going to hit the brakes on the DTV transition and start up a three-agency advisory board from scratch? Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. NTIA is planning to start issuing coupons 1/1/08, and the deadline is 2/17/09. All things considered, we believe it is best to stick with that plan and adjust on the fly if necessary. That means closely monitoring the demand and supply of converter boxes so that the retail shelves can be replenished in all due haste should demand be high. On the public education front, Kohl needs to have some faith the NAB, NCTA, CEA and other stakeholders will do what is sane and necessary to protect their livelihoods.