On Friday, the FCC released its further Report and Order addressing the termination of analog service between now and June 12th, and revising the current DTV Consumer Education Requirements.  Despite the apparent success of the February 17th turn-off of approximately one-third of the analog television stations in the country, the FCC has now ratcheted up the DTV Consumer Education requirements at the eleventh hour.  The FCC has expanded and revised its rules significantly, so stations should review the Commission’s Order carefully and adjust their efforts and the content of their spots, crawls, etc., as necessary.  These new requirements will go into effect starting April 1st.  The full copy of the FCC’s Order is available here, and a summary of the new DTV education requirements is as follows:

First, in one of the few moves to reduce the burden on stations, the FCC has eliminated the requirement for most stations to continue broadcasting DTV transition educational information after they have terminated analog service and are operating in digital only.  Thus, stations that have completed construction of their full-authorized, post-transition digital facilities and are operating exclusively in DTV do not need to continue with the general DTV Consumer Education announcements.

Second, for those stations that have not yet terminated analog, the FCC has expanded the DTV Education requirements in order, in the FCC’s words: “to ensure that consumers will receive the information they need to make proper preparations for the digital transition of the stations on which they rely for television service.”  Specifically, beginning April 1, 2009, the stations must comply with the following rules:

1. Loss Area Notices– If the FCC’s Signal Loss Report — available here  — predicts that 2 percent or more of the population in a station’s Grade B analog service contour will not receive the station’s digital signal, then the station must air service loss notices to inform viewers of exactly where (i.e. which communities or what sections of the market) an analog signal is received today, but won’t receive a digital signal after the transition. These notices are in addition to the existing consumer education requirements. The FCC estimates that there are 213 stations still operating in analog that will lose more than 2 percent of the current population when they switch to digital-only. Thus, stations should review the FCC’s Signal Loss Reports and determine how best to convey information about "loss areas" (if any) to their viewers. For stations needing to air information about loss areas, the notices must be no shorter than 30 seconds and must be aired at least once per day between 8 AM and 11:35 PM. These spots are in addition to other on-air informational requirements.

2. Antenna Information– All stations must include information about the use of antennas as part of their consumer education campaign, including information concerning a station’s change from the VHF to UHF bands, and the need for additional or different equipment to avoid loss of service. Antenna info can be included in existing DTV consumer education efforts, such as in news programs and longer format pieces. Information must be provided at least once per day, in a message lasting at least 15 seconds, with at least three of those messages a week airing during prime time. 


Continue Reading FCC Adds More DTV Consumer Education Requirements

The FCC late Friday released an Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing a number of issues which arose as a result of the Congressional delay in the DTV transition deadline from February 17 until June 12.  In many cases, the actions taken in the Order are ministerial – e.g. changing the expiration dates on digital construction permits from February to June.  But there were also a number of substantive issues addressed by the order – including the public education requirements for the remainder of the transition and the potential for delaying any further terminations of analog service until at least April, and subjecting any planned termination of analog service before June 12 to additional scrutiny to determine if that termination would serve the public interest.   This is despite what many have termed a relatively uneventful termination of analog service on February 17 by over 400 stations nationwide.  Comments on this change in the transition procedures are to be filed on an expedited basis – within 5 days of the publication of this order in the Federal Register.

The delay of the early termination of service is likely to cause the most controversy, as Senate Republicans backed the transition delay only after specifically including in the legislation language that seemingly permitted such transitions under the rules that were in place at the time that the legislation was adopted (see our post here).  This would seemingly have permitted stations to terminate analog service within 90 days of the June 12 deadline, provided they had given their listeners at least 30 days notice of their plans.  A number of stations have started to provide that notice, planning a termination in March. But the Commission has tentatively concluded that it can amend the process for termination, and has set the date of March 17 for a notice to be filed at the FCC by all stations that want to terminate analog service before June 12.  As the Commission plans to continue to require 30 days public notice of the termination, and as they won’t allow any termination decision to become official until the March 17 filing, the earliest a station can terminate analog service under this proposal (absent a technical issue or other extreme circumstance) would be April 16. 


Continue Reading FCC Releases More Details of Delayed DTV Transition – No More DTV Conversions Until April?

Many television stations are making the conversion to all-digital operations today (see our post here for details).  These stations should remember that the DTV Consumer Education efforts that are currently in place apply to both the analog channel and the primary digital channel, and thus will continue after the conversion. Based on the current rules,

Yesterday, we briefly wrote about the FCC’s release of a notice summarizing the process that television stations need to follow as they transition to digital under the newly extended DTV conversion date.  In yesterday’s post, we promised a more detailed memo summarizing the requirements that the FCC has set out.  That advisory is now available here

The House of Representatives, after a fairly contentious debate, today passed the Bill extending the termination date for analog service by full-power TV stations, extending the Digital Television deadline until June 12.  By that date, all full-power stations will need to complete the transition to digital so that, on June 13, there will be no

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

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.

Continue Reading FCC Rules on Consumer Education to Go Into Effect on Monday – Broadcast and Cable Systems Should Be Ready to Start Compliance Efforts Immediately

Although many TV stations are already airing PSAs and other programming designed to educate the public about the upcoming digital television transition, the FCC released an Order containing very specific requirements  for these educational initiatives.  These rules mandate public education efforts about the DTV transition by television broadcasters, multichannel video providers, and electronics manufacturers.  In addition, the new rules require that television stations file a quarterly report on a new form, FCC Form 388, with the FCC (that is also placed in the station’s public file and on its website) certifying compliance with the requirements of the rules and setting out specifics of other consumer educations efforts about the DTV transition that the station has undertaken.The requirements will become effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register, and continue through March 31, 2009, for all full power stations who complete the transition to their full DTV facilities by February 18, 2009.

The FCC has established three options for meeting the educational initiatives requirement, two of which are available to all TV stations, and one of which is available to noncommercial stations only.  Each has very specific mandates as to how many PSAs about the digital transition are required, and how much additional content (crawls, various over-lays onto programming, long-form programs) are required to meet the obligations.  Thus, broadcasters and others subject to these rules should review the specific requirements carefully.


Continue Reading FCC Announces DTV Consumer Education Requirements – Very Specific PSA Obligations Placed on Broadcasters