With the Digital Television conversion date only eight and a half months away, the end game is beginning.  The FCC has announced that Wilmington, North Carolina will be a test market for the digital conversion, going all-digital on September 8 (or almost all digital, as the local NPR affiliate is not planning to turn off its analog signal, and one LPTV station will continue to operate in analog).  This will provide the FCC with an opportunity to determine what will really happen when the digital transition occurs in February of next year.  What will the FCC learn from this early test?  In the statement of Commissioner Copps at a recent town hall meeting held in Wilmington to address the digital conversion, some of the issues to be watched were set out.

Essentially, the Commissioner identified four different broad categories of issues that would be considered.  They are:

  • Technical issues – will the DTV signals provide adequate service to their communities?  Will the converter boxes be able to receive the signals with "rabbit ear" antennas, or will there be reception problems
  • Will consumers have received the word about the transition, or are there certain groups that will be particularly hard-hit by the transition, missing out on vital information about that transition?
  • How will various partnerships work?  The Commissioner identifies partnerships between various industry, government and community groups to distribute news about the transition, but there are also partnerships between stations and multi-channel video providers (cable and direct broadcast satellite) that need to be worked out
  • The unknown – what other issues that are not anticipated will arise?

As set forth below, many of these issues have been receiving extensive press coverage in recent weeks.Continue Reading What Will the FCC Learn from Wilmington – The Beginning of the End of the TV Digital Transition

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

On the last day of 2007, the FCC released its Third Periodic Review of the Digital Television rules and policies, providing the rules and procedures that TV stations must follow in their final transition from analog to digital operations.  This transition leads up to the February 17 deadline when all television stations must cease analog broadcasting and operate full-time in