FCC wants $1.5 mil to educate consumers

Transition to digital TV in February 2009

The Federal Communications Commission is hoping to land $1.5 million in federal coin to help get word out about the coming transition to digital television, which could see millions of analog TVs go dark in 2009.

In its budget request for fiscal 2008, the agency specifically asked for $1.5 million to underwrite an outreach campaign “to educate consumers about the impact and benefits of the transition to DTV,” according to an FCC statement.

The commission is asking for a total appropriation of $313 million for ’08. President Bush included that amount as part of the overall $2.9 trillion budget the White House submitted to Congress on Monday.

While the majority of the $313 million — an increase of about $10.5 million over the previous fiscal year — will go toward employee salary increases, general operating expenses and some other particular programs, the $1.5 million is intended “to prepare consumers for the February 2009 transition to DTV deadline through production and distribution of consumer information materials, public service announcements and Web materials,” according to the budget request.

The FCC plans to distribute information in Spanish, Chinese, Korean and other languages in addition to English.

In the past, the broadcast, cable and satellite TV industries as well as consumer electronics manufacturers have urged the FCC to do more to help educate the public about the coming transition. An estimated 20 million-75 million analog TV sets in the U.S. are not hooked to either cable or satellite, meaning those sets will go dark after February 2009 if not attached to a digital-to-analog converter box.

The National Assn. of Broadcasters “will be working with the FCC, Congress and a variety of coalitions to ensure that no broadcast-only television set gets disconnected because of a lack of consumer education,” the NAB said in a statement.

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