Consumer education needed to make DTV transition a success

Even as the television industry enters the final stage of its DTV buildout, the public is only at the early stages of adopting digital television in their homes. “Significant strides” must be made in consumer education to ensure the successful completion of digital television transition, said FCC Media Bureau chief W. Kenneth Ferree in remarks to the 53rd annual Broadcast Symposium sponsored by the IEEE and AFCCE.

In his speech entitled “From Dead to Dynamo,” Ferree praised the efforts of FCC Chairman Michael Powell to advance the roll out of DTV service. However, Ferree said that for the transition to be successful, consumer education about digital television is necessary.

“Although a lot of people seem to have heard about digital television, very few know what it is or have any understanding of even some of the basic terms,” he told the audience gathered at the Hotel Washington in Washington, D.C. Oct. 16.

He pointed to confusion over concepts such as HDTV, DTV, enhanced TV, plasma TV and “digital” tier cable services as examples of lack of knowledge among television viewers that, if unaddressed, will impede the smooth transition to DTV service.

“The problem is that the information out there is spotty, confusing, and sometimes contradictory,” he said. “Unfortunately, consumer education is the one part of the transition that the FCC has the least control over and input into.”

The industries that have a financial stake in the successful transition to DTV must “step up to the plate and push DTV,” Ferree said. “American consumers have to understand the equipment that they are being asked to buy, the services they will get, and what it will take to get those services. They also have to better understand the choices they have and the impact that the end of the transition will have on their analog equipment.”

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