In March, the commission announced its DTV Consumer Education Initiative, which requires broadcasters to educate the public regarding the DTV transition.
Under this initiative, full-power TV stations will have to select one of three options calling for a combination of PSAs, video crawls, DTV countdown “bugs” and long-form infomercials covering the DTV transition. In addition to satisfying these requirements, stations will also have to file quarterly reports on a new Form 388 to let the commission know which option the station selected and to certify that the station did in fact comply with the relevant requirements during the preceding quarter. The following is a summary of the three options.
PSAs and video crawls
The first option is a combination of PSAs and video crawls. PSAs must be at least 15 seconds long, and the video crawls must be at least 60 seconds. Such PSAs and video crawls need to inform the public that:
- full-power analog broadcasting will cease on Feb. 17, 2009;
- analog-only televisions may not be operational after that date unless the viewer takes action;
- viewers can get more information online or by telephone (Web site and/or phone number must be included); and
- viewers should take certain steps to continue being able to watch the station, depending on whether they receive the station over-the-air or via cable or satellite.
One PSA and one video crawl must be broadcast every six hours initially (with at least one in prime time), with the frequency increasing to three PSAs and three crawls every six hours during the period of Oct. 1, 2008, to March 31, 2009.
Fewer PSAs and crawls but more outreach
Under the second option, a TV station will have to air an average of 16 PSAs per week. While each PSA must be at least 15 seconds in length, it will take two 15-second PSAs to equal one PSA for purposes of compliance with the commission's rules. The station must also air an average of 16 crawls (each at least 60 seconds long) per week.
Under this option, the commission will require at least one 30-minute infomercial each day regarding the DTV transition, and all of the following outreach initiatives once a day: a super-imposed graphic display, an animated graphic display, and an audio message reminding viewers that there are “x” number of days before the end of the transition. These messages must also provide a toll-free number or Web site for more details.
For noncommercial stations
Under the third option, eligible licensees must air a certain number of “transition-related educational PSAs” per day as well as the same 30-minute infomercial as required in the second option.
All of the information required by the Education Initiative will have to be closed captioned, in the same language as a majority of the programming aired on the station, and placed on the station's analog and primary digital stream.
Cable and satellite companies
Cable and satellite companies must place in their monthly bills notices that the DTV transition will end on Feb. 17, 2009, and that a converter box may be needed to continue reception of over-the-air broadcasts. The statements must also refer the reader either to www.dtv.gov or to the service provider at a toll-free number to receive information regarding the transition and the subsidized coupons for the $40 converter boxes.
Harry C. Martin is a past president of the Federal Communications Bar Association and a member of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, PLC.
- June 2 is the deadline for TV stations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming to file their biennial ownership reports.
- In the following jurisdictions, June 2 also is the deadline for TV, Class A and LPTV stations that originate programming to place their annual EEO reports in their public files and place them on their Web sites: Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Wyoming.
- On June 2, TV stations with more than 10 full-time employees in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia must electronically file their broadcast EEO midterm reports (Form 397) with the FCC.
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