GAO: Public Needs More ‘Specific Knowledge’ of Transition

The good news from the Government Accountability Office: 84 percent of those surveyed have heard about the DTV transition.

But when it gets to the details, confusion remains, according to a GAO study released Tuesday. More than half of respondents are aware of the government coupon program for DTV converter boxes, but only a third of those planning to use the coupons know how to obtain them, and 30 percent of those unaffected by the transition erroneously have made plans to ready themselves, the report said.

The data could be a bit musty, as the survey was conducted from March 24 to April 7.

The public is also unclear about low-power, Class A and translator stations, which are not required to cease analog broadcasts in February 2009 or any other time.

“Public and private stakeholders have taken steps to educate the public about the low-power broadcasts ... but some advocacy groups and others have expressed concerns that the messages intending to explain the low-power issue are instead confusing the public,” the report said. “Further complicating matters, many consumers do not know the difference between full-power or low-power stations or whether the signals they receive are full or low power.”

The report was unveiled before the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee at a hearing Tuesday. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., said he had different consumer awareness data—from the Nielsen Company—that was probably more accurate, he said, and therefore more optimistic than the GAO report.

The report follows another released April 30 that focused on the status of broadcasters. That report said that in February, 91 percent of full-power stations were already broadcasting in digital and nearly all expected to cease analog.