FCC offers help with digital switch

Staff to visit cities with 15% analog TV users

Coming soon to a town hall near you: the Federal Communications Commission with a message about how to survive the impending switch to all-digital television.

Between now and the end of the year, FCC commissioners and staff will visit close to two dozen cities that have been identified as having “more than 100,000 households or at least 15% of the households relying solely on over-the-air signals for television,” the agency announced Monday.

Analog TVs that are OTA-reliant will go dark after the complete switch to digital broadcasting on Feb.17 unless they are hooked to a digital-to-analog converter box (available via federal subsidy) or to a cable or satellite provider. Congress — which expects to bear the brunt of the anger from those with TVs not equipped to keep operating in the digital era — has been pressing the FCC to better inform and educate viewers about what they will need to do.

FCC topper Kevin J. Martin announced the plan, which will dispatch commission personnel to the various cities to hold townhall meetings and other public workshops designed to let people know what will happen with digital television broadcasting next February and what they will need to do to get ready.

“As part of our efforts to prepare consumers for the transition, we have identified television markets in which the largest number of viewers will have to take action to be prepared for the transition six months from now,” Martin said in a statement. “This unprecedented nationwide tour by the entire commission is part of our commitment to prepare and educate consumers about the digital television transition.”

Among the cities on the list are New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Denver and Memphis.

The full list of cities — including some 60 others the agency hopes to visit before Feb. 17 — is available at FCC.gov.

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