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Adelstein Calls for More Urgency, Task Force on DTV Transition

Democratic FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein called for more coordination among federal agencies on the DTV transition and for greater urgency in getting help to seniors and other vulnerable populations who want to keep their TVs on after Feb. 18, 2009.

“We need to have an implementation plan—not just a plan to educate people but a plan to actually make sure that they can deal with the complexities of this,” Adelstein said Thursday. “We don’t even have a plan to come up with a plan. We have a problem here.”

At an FCC workshop focusing on the needs of older Americans in the DTV transition, Adelstein also repeated his call for a task force or similar entity to coordinate government efforts related to the transition and the government’s program for $40 coupons for the boxes.

Adelstein’s remarks followed those of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin highlighting, in more optimistic terms, the FCC’s efforts so far in reaching out to seniors.

Martin said FCC field offices have disseminated DTV materials to more than 1,800 senior centers and community groups. The commission has held about 130 DTV “awareness sessions” throughout the country.

Martin recently did interviews with AARP radio and AARP magazine, he said, and just this week did a PSA with Retirement Living TV, which targets its programming to seniors and reaches nearly 30 million homes nationwide.

He also noted the FCC’s stepped-up enforcement efforts on the labeling requirement for old-fashioned analog TVs.

Adelstein cited as a good example the massive $400 million he said the British government is spending on its DTV transition, which is being implemented incrementally, place by place.

The government efforts should include partnerships with numerous agencies and community groups, he said. For example, one plan involved Boy Scouts helping seniors install the boxes, but it was scrapped due to various problems including potential safety and liability issues.

Noting that private industries related to the transition have joined together with groups such as the DTV Coalition, Adelstein said the feds need their own comparable coordinating effort.

In hearings last month before Congress, NTIA Administrator John Kneuer and Martin both said that the two agencies were coordinating adequately without a further federal directive or establishment of a task force.

“You look at these boxes, and they aren’t the kinds of things that seniors can just take out of the box and stick on the TV,” Adelstein said after his address. “I wonder who’s going to help them.”