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FCC warns stations to man the phones

Last week, the FCC released a public notice reminding stations of their obligation to provide a consumer referral telephone number to the FCC and to publicize that number so that viewers will have a local number to call for specific information about the station's transition to DTV.

In fact, since April 1, each station has been required to publicize its number on at least a daily basis as part of its DTV education messaging campaign. The FCC has posted these telephone numbers on the Web site.

In its latest notice, the FCC also reminded stations that they should be prepared to answer calls from viewers in the hours immediately after their transition and in the days that follow.

The FCC’s rules require that stations offer information and assistance for viewers having difficulty receiving their signal. The commission said that the station's consumer referral number “should be staffed with personnel prepared to answer complex questions from viewers, particularly regarding necessary actions to take to get reception in specific locations, and other engineering issues.”

Stations that terminated analog service after the close of business on Friday evening were asked to ensure that their consumer referral number is adequately staffed, not only in the hours surrounding the transition, but also over the following weekend (June 13-14), because their viewers may not have the opportunity to test for problems until after business hours.

As of this writing, the government was anticipating a large volume of calls from confused consumers once a station turns off its analog signal. The public notice warned that “many viewers” would need assistance in the immediate post-transition period, particularly regarding reception issues.

The FCC’s national call center will be available 24 hours a day for the days surrounding the June 12 transition, forwarding calls directly to stations when necessary.

The FCC spent more than $75 million over the past few months to educate consumers about the transition.