Public DTV education is NTIA’s responsibility, says Martin

Responding in a June 18 letter to the concerns of two key lawmakers over the FCC’s lack of leadership and failure to devote adequate resources to educate the public about the DTV transition, FCC chairman Kevin Martin said the regulatory agency has sought Congressional funding for public DTV education for two years in a row but that Congress has not granted any money for such efforts.

Reps. John Dingell (D-MI), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Edward Markey (D-MA), chairman of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, sent a letter to Martin May 24, urging the commission to implement a national consumer education campaign about the DTV transition and the ramifications for analog over-the-air viewers.

The letter from the powerful House members rejected an earlier assertion from Martin that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) — the agency Congress authorized to administer the converter box program — has the primary responsibility to educate consumers about the DTV conversion. The pair told Martin that the FCC held the primary responsibility for the digital transition, including leading consumer education about the change.

While Martin responded favorably to several specific recommendations the lawmakers made to the commission about educating the public, he stuck with his assertion that Congress intended NTIA to be the lead agency responsible for consumer educations. “…Congress specifically allotted NTIA $100 million to spend on administrative expenses for the digital transition and the converter box programs, including $5 million ‘for consumer education concerning the digital television transition (emphasis Martin’s) and the availability of the digital to analog converter box program,’” he said in the letter.

Underscoring his position on which agency should take the lead on consumer education, Martin said the commission “should do everything within its current statutory and budgetary capacity” to bring about a smooth transition and “promote consumer awareness.”

Martin also outlined for the Congressmen the various regulatory steps and policy proceedings the commission has launched to minimize the consumer burden of the DTV transition.