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Senator floats new DTV transition bill

Worried that the DTV transition is going to be a major problem for the nation’s senior citizens, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) has introduced legislation to establish a coordinated public-private partnership that would inform the public about the transition to digital television.

Citing new evidence that the nation’s senior population is at a disproportionate risk of seeing their TV sets go dark when analog transmissions end in 2009, Kohl, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said action is needed to avert a major problem for elderly Americans.

“Seniors are particularly vulnerable to slipping through the cracks of the transition,” said Kohl. “Not only are they more likely to rely on free over-the-air analog TV signals, but for many seniors, television is their only link to the outside world. Without adequate planning and coordination, seniors will be left in the dark.”

The legislation would establish a task force for coordinating all involved parties. “Additionally, the partnership would be required to develop a road map for consumer education, with specific and achievable benchmarks, and report to Congress on progress,” Kohl said. “The legislation will also set requirements for the industry, which has a major financial stake in a successful DTV transition.”

Those requirements include mandatory public service announcements and a toll-free phone number people could call to find out if they are at risk and what help they can get.

The special committee recently completed an investigation “that found the federal government is drastically unprepared to educate America’s seniors about the transition, set to take place Feb. 17, 2009,” said Kohl.