Copps, Taylor Tate express concern over DTV transition

The need to educate TV viewers about the completion of the DTV transition and February 2009 shutoff of analog transmission was on the minds of FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Deborah Taylor Tate April 17 during the Chairman’s Breakfast at NAB2007.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was unable to attend the event because of a hearing on Capitol Hill.

During the event, Copps and Taylor Tate took questions from NAB president and CEO David Rehr about a variety of topics, including media ownership, diversity, childhood obesity and the media’s role, the use of unlicensed devices in TV white spaces and the DTV transition. Both commissioners expressed concern about the lack of public knowledge about the 2009 DTV deadline.

“This DTV transition is a stealth process compared to [Y2K],” Copps said, contrasting the situation with the efforts of the Commerce Department to raise awareness of and head off problems with computers predicted for the turn of the century during his tenure as assistant commerce secretary.

Stressing the inadequacy of the $5 million the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has so far allocated to educate the public about the transition, Copps emphasized that now is the time to begin taking the transition process seriously. Copps compared the NTIA’s $5 million public education budget to the $400 million being spent in the UK to educate that nation’s 60 million people about the switch to digital broadcasting.

“The repercussions of this and the cost that the government agencies and Congress and the private sector are going to pay if this goes awry are going to be tremendous. I mean, we’ll all be here trying to get a few bucks out of the slot machines to make a living if this goes south,” he said.

For her part, Taylor Tate urged broadcasters to use the variety of means at their disposal to educate the public, including radio.