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January 22, 2007 - Alsea, OR -- The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) alerted the press today that legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to deal with the educational efforts related to the February 18, 2009 "hard date" shut off of analog television signals. Throughout the last year an uneasy mix of angst and apathy on the subject has bewitched the various stakeholders. The angst has come from a fear that the ending of analog services will come prior to the consumer market being fully ready. The apathy stems from the Bobby McFerrin like-notion that despite appearances "everything is going to be all right, be happy".

The bill was offered by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking minority member of the House Commerce Committee, along with Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), ranking minority member of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, and former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who serves on the House Commerce Committee.

Dennis Wharton, NAB Executive Vice President for Media Relations said of the legislation today, "NAB thanks Ranking Members Barton and Upton and Rep. Hastert for offering legislation aimed at educating America's television viewers about the ongoing digital transition. As we draw nearer to February 2009, we welcome all pro-consumer initiatives designed to positively educate America on the transition from analog to digital television.

The NAB recently announced the formation of a four-member Digital Television Transition Team made up of new hires Jonathan Collegio, Myra Dandridge, Shermaze Ingram and Lale Mamaux. They have been commissioned by the association to work with Congress, the FCC, the NTIA, industry groups, consumer groups (like the "The HDTV EXPO" program noted on our home page) and other allies working in an effort to bring the DTV transition to a "successful conclusion".

Key highlights of the bill:

. Require labeling and signs. Manufacturers would be required to place labels on analog televisions. Retailers would be required to display signs near analog televisions. This would help ensure that consumers who are thinking of buying an analog television understand that after Feb. 17, 2009, they will need to connect the television to a converter-box, or to cable or satellite service, to receive broadcast television signals.

. Require billing notices. Cable and satellite operators would be required to include information in their bills notifying subscribers about the DTV transition and the digital-to-analog converter-box program. Cable and satellite subscribers will be largely unaffected by the transition, but this requirement will help ensure they understand what is happening.

. Broadcaster reporting. Broadcasters will be required to file regular reports with the Federal Communications Commission detailing what consumer education efforts they are undertaking, such as the airing of public service announcements. Broadcasters and their viewers will be among the prime beneficiaries of the DTV transition and the converter-box program, and broadcasters are uniquely suited to explain to consumers what will happen.

. FCC outreach. The FCC would be required to create a public outreach program to help educate consumers. The FCC would also be required to create a DTV consumer education working group that includes representatives from the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), broadcasters, cable and satellite operators, consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers, and consumer groups. The working group would be charged with helping to advise the FCC on consumer outreach.

. Energy standards. The NTIA would be required to establish energy standards for digital-to-analog converter boxes. National standards will help ensure that manufacturers can produce and distribute efficient, low-cost converter boxes for consumers nationwide.

. Progress Reports. The FCC would be required to submit regular progress reports to Congress on the DTV transition, including discussion of the ongoing consumer education efforts of the FCC and the private sector. The NTIA would be required to submit regular reports to Congress on the distribution and redemption of coupons for converter boxes.

Click here to read the entire bill.

Posted by Dale Cripps, January 22, 2007 5:30 PM

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About Dale Cripps

Dale Cripps is a professional journalist who has focused two thirds of his career on the subject of high-definition television. Upon completing his education in business and service in the military he formed Cripps and Associates, South Pasadena, California, in 1964, which operated as a market-development company for aerospace services. In 1983 he turned to television and began what has become a 20 year campaign to pioneer HDTV. For fifteen of those years he published the well-regarded HDTV Newsletter (an international monthly written for television professionals). During much of this same time he also served as the HDTV-Technical Editor for "Widescreen Review Magazine." On November 16, 1998 he launched the Internet distributed HDTV Magazine, which remains the only consumer publication devoted exclusively to high-definition television. In April of 2002 he co-founded with Tedson Meyers of Coudert Bros, the High-definition Television Association of America, which is presently based in Washington DC. Cripps is the president of this organization. Mr. Cripps is a charter member of the Academy of Digital Television Pioneers and honored by that organization with the DTV Press Leadership Award of 2002. He makes his home in Oregon.