The Digital Television transition, as we’ve written before, is becoming a political hot potato, with everyone seemingly preparing to point the finger at others if the transition does not run smoothly. In recent weeks, we’ve seen Republicans and Democrats alike taking their shots at broadcasters and the FCC – looking for likely sources of blame if there are a significant number of viewers who have a television signal that is missing in action on February 18, 2009, the day after the end of the transition. Many are blaming television broadcasters for not pushing the transition more in Public Service Announcements and other announcements on their airwaves. Some suggest a set of mandatory public service obligations to inform the public (see details here). But would such a push at this time do any good when the availability of converter boxes is limited, and the price of digital-only television sets still high?
In recent actions, Commissioner Copps wrote an op-ed piece in USA Today last week sounding an old theme – more public interest obligations for digital television (see our post on the pending proposals, here) – and a newer one, that broadcasters should now be running public service announcements that inform the public of the steps that they need to take to be ready for the transition (either subscribing to cable or satellite or getting a digital television or converter box). A similar point about the publicity for the transition – perhaps even mandatory PSAs – was made in a recent letter from two Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Joe Barton and Fred Upton, to the FCC. While there is no question that broadcasters need to promote the digital transition as the public is woefully uninformed of what is coming, does promotion do any good if the hardware is not available?
Continue Reading Pushing Too Hard for Publicity on the Digital Television Transition?