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NAB, MSTV tell FCC not to impose on-air DTV education requirements

The National Association of Broadcasters and Association for Maximum Service Television told the FCC Sept. 17 in jointly filed comments that it should not impose specific on-air requirements on stations when it comes to educating viewers about the DTV transition.

To do so would be “constitutionally suspect” and could “inadvertently impeded the success” of the effort broadcasters have undertaken.

The trade organizations’ comments were filed in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in which the commission is seeking input on steps that should be taken across the board by broadcasters, cable operators and consumer electronics manufacturers to raise the general lack of knowledge among the public about the ramifications of the analog switchoff in February 2009.

According to the joint comments, the broadcast industry is committed to educating viewers about the DTV transition and any action the commission takes to foster the public’s awareness should be flexible and not impede the transition.

The comments counseled the commission to follow three key principles as it determines how to proceed with rules to promote consumer education about the transition. First, it should “take actions that facilitate the transition, not impede it,” the trade groups said. Additionally, the commission should not assume that “a one-size-fits-all approach” will work for all communities. Finally, the commission should be ready to adapt rules as needed.

The NAB and MSTV told the commission that coordinating the educational efforts of government, industry and other stakeholders is “critical” to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts as well as “failing to target key segments of the American population.”

The associations told the commission that partners should regularly inform the commission of their consumer outreach efforts. They also agreed that stakeholders need to track consumer awareness so messaging can be targeted at communities where awareness of the DTV transition lags.

The comments also pointed out the efforts of the broadcast industry to inform the public, which include the rollout this week of PSAs in English and Spanish to increase awareness of the transition and the fact “that some households could lose their television signals unless they act.”

Other steps the NAB has undertaken include the production of a package for TV stations that includes multilingual on-air announcements, HD packages to help stations report on the transition and half-hour educational television programs.

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