The FCC today released a Public Notice stating that their DTV Consumer Education rules will go into effect on Monday, March 31, when they are published in the Federal Register. Thus, broadcast television stations need to immediately be prepared to start complying with these rules. These rules require that broadasters pick from a set of three plans setting out very specific consumer education activities. Under Option 1, the option which originated from the FCC, PSAs about the transition would need to start running immediately – 4 spots a day on Monday, and 8 a day on Tuesday, April 1. We expect that most stations will follow Option 2 – the NAB plan – as it provides more flexibility. But even under the NAB plan, you will need to be running at least 16 30-second PSAs and 16 crawls, all providing information about the transition, during the coming week. Noncommercial stations also have a third option. For specific information on the requirements, see our memo on the requirements of the new rules, or review the full Commission order, here.
On April 10, stations will also need to file the new Form 388 for the first time. On this form, stations will need to specify which of the Options they are selecting (an irrevocable option). Stations will also need to detail the consumer education education efforts that they have engaged in over the previous quarter – which obviously would have been voluntary efforts prior to the effective date of the new rules on Monday.
The Commission has also set cable outreach efforts – requiring, among other things, information about the digital transition to be included in consumer bills. Our firm has prepared a memo detailing those obligations, which is available here.
With the new rules going into effect next week, broadcasters and cable companies need to comply immediately. Of course, every station will want to educate the public as to how they can watch the stations on February 29, 2009, but the Commission is requiring that this education be in the specific manner that they direct. So begin these efforts next week.