As broadcasters are aware, earlier this year, the FCC imposed DTV Consumer Education requirements mandating that television stations and other video providers educate viewers about the upcoming transition from analog to digital television (DTV). Thus far, the education efforts have consisted primarily of Public Service Announcements (PSAs), crawls, and longer format programs designed to educate the public about the February 17, 2009 switch to DTV. Now that stations are approaching the home stretch, however, the FCC’s rules require additional efforts.
Specifically, for those stations that elected to follow “Option Two” of the DTV Consumer Education requirements — which seems to be the vast majority of television stations — beginning on November 10, 2008, television stations must begin a "100-Day Countdown" to the transition consisting of enhanced efforts leading up to February 17, 2009. During this period, each station following Option Two must air at least one of the following per day:
Graphic display: A graphic super-imposed during programming content that reminds viewers graphically there are “[X] number of days” left until the transition, and that visually instructs viewers to call a toll-free number or to visit a web site for further details. The graphic’s duration may vary from 5 to 15 seconds, at the discretion of the station.
Animated graphic: A moving or animated graphic that concludes with a countdown reminder, which will remind viewers that there are “[X] number of days” until the transition. Viewers are to be visually instructed to call a toll-free number or to visit a website for details. The graphic’s duration may vary from 5 to 15 seconds, at the discretion of the station.
Graphic and audio display: Either a graphic display or animated graphic along with an added audio component. The duration may vary from 5 to 15 seconds, at the discretion of the station.
Longer form reminders: Stations may choose from a variety of longer form options in order to communicate the countdown message. Examples might include an “Ask the Expert” segment in which viewers can call in to a phone bank and ask knowledgeable people questions about the transition. The length of these segments can vary from 2 to 5 minutes, at the discretion of the station. (Some stations may also choose to include during newscasts DTV “experts” who may be asked questions by the anchor or reporter about the impending Feb. 17, 2009, deadline).
With this 100-Day Countdown, the Commission hopes to push strong to the finish line and build viewer and consumer momentum for the final switch to digital on February 17th. The FCC has been paying close attention to station compliance with the DTV Consumer Education requirements and stations are advised to start planning now for their 100-Day Countdown efforts. One additional note, stations that have elected to follow Option Two should also be sure to air at least one longer form program (at least 30 minutes in length) if they have not done so already. At least one such program must be run between the hours of 8:00 AM and 11:35 PM prior to February 17, 2009.