Commission Order specifies how broadcasters must deliver DTV education

March 6, 2008

The commission Monday released an order giving television broadcasters a choice of how they must fulfill their obligation to educate the public about the February 2009 DTV transition.

The FCC’s DTV Consumer Education Order, approved Feb. 19, mandates that broadcasters, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), telecom companies, retailers and manufacturers take specific steps to help teach the public about the transition. The order gives commercial broadcasters the option to choose between a plan developed by the commission and one largely suggested by the National Association of Broadcasters. Public television stations may choose a third option.

Under the order, broadcasters may choose from:

  • Option One: Air one transition PSA, and run one transition crawl, in every quarter of every day on its analog and digital channels. On April 1, the requirement will increase to two PSAs and crawls per quarter per day, and on Oct. 1 to three of each. At least one of each must run in prime time and the PSAs must be closed-captioned. The order specifies various requirements, including content, for the crawls and PSAs.
  • Option Two: Air an average of 16 transition PSAs per week, and an average of 16 transition-related crawls, snipes, and/or tickers per week, over each quarter through the transition period between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m. Each calendar quarter, one fourth of all PSAs and crawls, snipes, and/or tickers must air between 6 p.m. and 11:35 p.m., Eastern and Pacific, and between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., Central and Mountain. The commission also specified content and other requirements for these PSAs and crawls.
  • Option Three: Only public broadcasters may choose this option, which requires a broadcaster to air 60 seconds per day of on-air consumer education, in variable timeslots, including at least 7.5 minutes per month between 6 p.m. and 12 a.m. On May 1, the requirement doubles, and beginning Nov. 1, it increases to 180 seconds per day and 22.5 minutes per month between 6 p.m. and midnight. Closed-captioning is required for the PSAs.

The order also requires:

  • MVPDs to provide monthly notices about the DTV transition in their customer billing statements.
  • Manufacturers of television receivers and related devices to provide notice to consumers of the transition’s impact on that equipment.
  • DTV.gov partners and winners of the 700MHz spectrum auction to provide the commission with regular updates on their consumer education efforts.
  • Telecommunications companies participating in the Low Income Federal Universal Service Program to provide notice of the transition in their monthly customer billing statements to their low income customers and potential customers.

Prior to the order’s release some broadcasters had expressed concern about the possibility the commission or Congress might impose strict, mandatory educational obligations. However, the order appears to provide broadcasters with sufficient flexibility in promoting the transition to the public and earned the praise of the NAB.

To read the order in its entirety, visit: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-08-56A1.pdf.

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