Dingell Stiffs LPTV in PSA

The Community Broadcasters Association is taking House Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., to task for what it calls false and misleading statements in a PSA intended to educate the public about the DTV transition.

In the PSA, Dingell ignores the fact that most low-power, Class A and translator stations will continue broadcasting in analog after full-power analog stations cease in February 2009, CBA says.

“I’m Congressman John Dingell. In February of 2009 every television station in America will switch to an all digital format, providing a higher quality picture, enabling advanced wireless services and improving public safety communications,” Dingell says on the PSA carried on the Dish Network. “If your television set receives signals through a rooftop antenna or rabbit ears, you will need a digital converter box to continue receiving local television signals.”

A CBA officer with a handheld video camera shot a home TV screen as the PSA ran and posted it on YouTube.

As low-power broadcasters have said, including in testimony before Dingell’s committee and in a federal lawsuit filed March 26, most federally subsidized converter boxes could cause confusion in consumers by blocking the analog signals of the community broadcasters.

Dingell, known for aggressively demanding yes-or-no answers from witnesses before his committee, did not directly address the issue when asked.

“Chairman Dingell is aware of CBA’s concerns,” a committee spokesman said. “As he works to educate constituents about this transition, he is making every effort to be clear about which stations will transition to digital in February of 2009.”

The CBA has called attention to other educational efforts that minimize or ignore the low-power stations, but Dingell’s words especially irked the group.

“We’re fighting a very tough battle, especially when officials are out there saying the wrong thing,” said Greg Herman, CBA vice president of technology. “We’re very tired of people trying to marginalize our audience. It’s blatantly disrespectful. We’re not going to tolerate it.”