August 6, 2007
FCC Preparing to Educate Public on Digital Deadline

The FCC is moving forward on finding ways to educate the public about the coming digital deadline, the Feb. 17, 2009, date when over-the-air analog broadcasts will be replaced by digital. For a number of Americans who only have analog television sets and no cable or satellite subscription, this will be a pivotal date without a digital-to-analog converter box or a new digital television, since they will no longer be able to watch TV.

Of course, this only comes after a wide variety of folks have criticized the government and the industry for not doing enough to inform Americans about such a big change being well under two years away. In response, the FCC has finally laid out a number of ideas, including public service announcements, notices that come with new television sets, and inserts in cable bills. However, although a digital deadline has been discussed for some time, a great number of Americans don't seem to know about the digital deadline.

Ira Teinowitz with TelevisionWeek writes more on the situation, pointing out that converter boxes should be ready for market by the end of 2007.

Much of this current debate among the government is based on comments made a few months ago from Rep. John Dingell, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who excoriated the broadcast industry and the government for not doing enough to educate the public. As I pointed out then, less than 30 percent of Americans reported at the beginning of this year that they were even aware of the deadline. See my post here.

At the time, I wrote, "His criticism in particular of the way in which the Bush Administration (but I would widen this to government in general and the industry as well) was giving so little time and effort to thinking about the massive implication this switch could have in many Americans' lives was particularly apt."

More recently, Nolan Bowie of the Kennedy School at Harvard weighed in on the situation, talking about how the conversion may lead to a new digital divide. In response, I wrote, "The plan for analog television signals to be a think of the past by February 2009 is quite understandable when one understands the potential benefits for freeing the spectrum for more efficient uses, but the way in which the public has been informed, and plans have been made for such a digital deadline, has been...well...something less than efficient."

A lot of people just aren't too happy with the FCC in any event; see this December 2006 post about the group known as FCC FU.