Copps Suggests Test Marketing of Analog Shutoff

Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps’ New Year’s Eve suggestion that broadcasters “test market” DTV before the February 2009 analog shutoff may be wacky, but some folks are taking it seriously enough to suggest which markets should be in such a test.

Copps didn’t exactly come out and say that broadcasters should pull their analog signals as some kind of experiment before the real shutoff in 2009—a move that could cause confusion and muddle the already fragile messaging of the DTV transition—but he did say it was “unfathomable” that the transition will go ahead without running such a test first.

In the United Kingdom, Copps noted, the DTV transition is being phased in by region. One small town, Whitehaven, became the first guinea pig in that transition.

“We need some of that real-world experience here,” Copps said. “Why in the world aren’t we doing that?”

Copps, who has been critical of what he calls the FCC’s lack of a unified approach to the transition, said Chairman Kevin Martin and others “are willing to sit down and begin exploring” the idea of DTV demonstration projects around the country.

It’s unclear which broadcasters would step up for the experiment. NAB had no comment on the matter.

But David Honig, executive director of the Minority Media Telecommunications Council, suggests running tests in areas with a few more minority viewers than in places like Muncie, Ind., or Utica, N.Y.

Honig suggested San Juan, Puerto Rico; Laredo, El Paso and Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, Texas; Yuma, Ariz.-El Centro, Calif.; Greenwood-Greenville, Miss.; and Albany, Ga.