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"We need to get the digital transition right." _Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI)

The Senate Commerce Committee on Science and Transportation held yet another hearing last Thursday, (July 26, 2007), on the digital television transition. With only eighteen months remaining until shut off of all analog terrestrial broadcasting (switching to all-digital) there is a frightening recognition that the public has yet to be informed about it. Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) opened the hearing with a fist full of "facts".

"Between 15 and 21 million households," he said, "rely exclusively on over-the-air television. Many more have second and third over-the-air sets in their homes. In February 2009, these Americans could see their televisions go dark, disconnecting them from news, public safety announcements, and their community unless they get a converter box and attach it to their television. Yet far too few of these consumers know that the transition ... is underway. "

Inouye pointed to a June 07 edition of the National Journal which claimed that only 10 percent of the nation's citizens know that the DTV transition is slated for 2009. "Many stakeholders in industry, in government and in our communities are engaged in well-intended efforts to publicize and promote the upcoming transition. To date, however, their efforts have yielded too few results."

Several representatives from Washington institutions took the microphone and reeled off a long list of who they had contacted in their effort to reach the old folks, the indigent, and the befuddled along with those who just don't give a damn about change.

"Managing the transition is by no means easy." acknowledges Inouye, grimly. "We have seen working groups, conferences, tip sheets, and a converter box coupon plan. What we do not have yet is a public that is aware that the digital transition is taking place.

The time to act is now," declared the senior Hawaiian legislator, "before the digital transition devolves into digital disaster. We must work together to ensure that no citizen is left behind in the transition to digital television."

While the list of things that stand accomplished by the transition partners is impressive it remains up to each and every one of us to aid our families and friends -- those who are less-than clear minded--in doing what must be done to keep their over-the-air television services coming. It is YOU who will make a bigger difference in this transition than will a handful of non-stakeholder-populated committees waving arms and flags in Washington.

In future articles I will cover what has already been done to inform the public; how effective that has been; how similar transitions have gone in Europe and elsewhere, and what the ultimate cost is going to be for this nation.

Posted by Dale Cripps, July 30, 2007 2:42 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.