FCC Issues DTV Help Center Details

Broadcaster obligations laid out
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WASHINGTON: The commission has laid out specifics for how broadcasters must assist the public with the final DTV transition. Around 900 TV stations across the country are scheduled to end analog broadcasting June12.

The commission’s mid-March order directed broadcasters to set up walk-in help centers in their respective markets. Further details were released late Friday, including just exactly what a “walk-in help center” is supposed to resemble.

-- It must be open and staffed (at a minimum) between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m. on Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Then from noon to 8 p.m. for the two weeks before June 12 and for seven days after.

-- The centers must have for demonstration purposes at least one analog television, a digital-to-analog converter box, a VCR or other recording device and an antenna for receiving local broadcast stations at the site.

-- Literature on the fed’s converter box program must also be displayed, as well as local station coverage maps, connection guides for the boxes, information on antenna, reception and disability issues.

-- A DVD player with a separate viewing device must be on hand for running education videos on the aforementioned topics.

-- Centers must be equipped with at least one broadband-equipped computer so people can file for converter-box coupons.

-- Each must have a local or toll-free number.

-- Each center has to have at least one trained person who can hook up a converter with an antenna and a VCR or other recording device, and who knows how to channel scan and activate closed-captioning.

Each DTV education walk-in center has to be within a TV station’s designated market area, and identified by said station. Each station is directed to update on-air public service announcements when made aware of any new walk-in DTV help centers.

The FCC also urged broadcasters to publicize any other DTV community outreach, but did not issue a requirement.

“We recognize that individual broadcast stations may encounter some difficulty in ascertaining the existence and location of all of the walk-in DTV help centers that they must publicize,” the FCC’s directive stated. “To assist stations in this endeavor… we encourage broadcasters to provide detailed information about all of the opportunities for face-to-face DTV education of which they are aware.”

That information will be posted on a dedicated FCC Web site.

Should no walk-in help centers exist in a given market, the broadcasters there must run daily notices with FCC contact information. Low-power TV stations and those that already have ended analog transmissions are exempt.

The docket number on the notice is Media Bureau No. 09-17. Additional information is available from FCC Media Bureau staffers Lyle Elder at 202-418-2120, and Eloise Gore at 202-418-7200.
-- Deborah D. McAdams