NAB, MSTV File Opposition to DTV Education Mandates

Responding to an FCC proposal to establish mandates on the DTV transition public education campaign, NAB and MSTV this week told the commission that such requirements on the wording and timing of public service announcements would not only hinder flexibility, but are also “statutorily and constitutionally suspect.”

Concerns have been raised on Capitol Hill recently over a lack of supervision and the absence of a uniform approach to the content of the education campaign, designed to inform consumers of the availability of publicly subsidized digital to analog converter boxes in preparation for the analog shutoff in February 2009.

In joint reply comments filed with the commission on the DTV Consumer Education Initiative, NAB said they would release details of their public education campaign on Oct. 15 and suggested that broadcasters have the advantage of localism and a range of “educational tools” that are better than anything the federal government could come up with. The lobbyists proposed partnering with the government to devise a way to measure the success of the campaign and told the commission that its current plans “far exceed any requirements the FCC could or should impose.”

“Broadcasters must have the option to adapt their outreach efforts depending on market realities specific to their communities,” the associations said. “A number of stations are currently running PSAs to drive awareness about the DTV transition. Those broadcasters are focusing their PSAs on their local communities, and not adopting a cookie cutter approach that may or may not be relevant to the consumers in that particular market.”

The associations also said timing of the PSAs should be coordinated with other federal agency and industry efforts, taking into account certain timelines, such as Jan. 1, 2008, when the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA)--the federal agency in charge of supervising the converter box program-- is required to begin accepting applications for the program.

“There is… some uncertainty as to when digital-to-analog converter boxes will be for sale by electronic retailers,” the associations said. “It may be premature to air, or require the airing of, on-air campaigns directing consumers to purchase digital-to-analog converter boxes until they are widely available.”