FCC Starts Final DTV Countdown Push

The FCC has launched an all-out drive to prepare the nation’s off-air television viewers for the planned end of analog broadcasting on June 12. According to a recent survey by Neilsen, an estimated 3.5 million households, or 3.1 percent of U.S. homes with off-air television reception, are not yet ready to receive digital TV.

The Commission, in an open meeting on May 13, provided details of a wide ranging course of action set to take place during the last 30 days remaining for full power analog television broadcasts. Six groups that are seen as especially vulnerable to loss of television service—senior citizens, low-income individuals, minorities, non-English speakers, the disabled, and those living on tribal lands or in rural areas—have been targeted for special attention in this final push to ready the country for mainstream digital television transition.

The stepped up plan includes the sending in of some 180 FCC employees to targeted communities with large numbers of unprepared households, the establishment of up to 400 walk-in information centers and 12,000 "DTV help clinics," issuance of contracts to 34 companies to provide in-home assistance, and the scheduling a DTV-only "soft test" on May 21.

The "soft test" will be conducted as previous receiving capability testing was done with the transmission of a message advising viewers that if they are able to read it, then they are watching an analog signal and will lose their reception on June 12 unless corrective action is taken. The May 21 test is to be conducted at three different times on that date.

"The switch to DTV offers benefits to consumers and society, but we must be vigilant to make sure all Americans are prepared for the transition," said acting FCC chairman Michael Copps. "Television is a primary source for news, weather and public safety information for many Americans so the FCC is working overtime to reach those remaining viewers who still have not taken the necessary action to continue to receive television programming after June 12."