Consultant Warns of Coming DTV Transition 'Catastrophe'

Facility changes, the economic downturn, lack of inter-industry cooperation, flawed converter boxes and inadequate consumer education could all add up to a catastrophic DTV transition, according to a well-known broadcast consultant.

In his presentation at this week's annual IEEE Broadcast Technology Society symposium held in Alexandria, Va., broadcast consultant Bill Meintel flagged a number of issues in the DTV transition that he contends have not received proper attention.

These include the large number of stations that have to make facility changes at the time of the event in February, putting too much confidence in set-top boxes, assuming that all cable and satellite service providers will be ready when "D-Day" comes, inadequate education—not only for viewers, but also for key government agencies, and even the recent downward spiral in the economic health of the nation.

Meintel said that ignoring these elements could result in a range of problems, with potentially large numbers of viewers not having service when mainstream analog television broadcasting ends.

His presentation, "The U.S. DTV Transition—Will February 18, 2009 be a Catastrophe? What are the Problems and How to Fix Them," addressed issues that could present challenges to the country's broadcasters and television viewers after the analog shutdown.

Meintel suggested that even the economy could be a factor in the transition, as job losses and lowered family income levels may cause viewers to move away from paid television delivery services and to an increased dependence on off-air signals.

Meintel called for greater cooperation among broadcasters and government in addressing viewer issues that go beyond "just connecting their set top boxes," and for the establishment of a nation call center clearinghouse to deal with viewers' reception problems and to assist in resolving them.

"This can't be just a Web site with a list of FAQs," Meintel said.