‘Soft test’ warning generates 55,000 calls to FCC helpline

Last week’s “soft test” to warn over-the-air analog TV viewers of next month’s conclusion of the DTV transition generated a single-day record for calls to the FCC national helpline.

The May 21 test prompted 55,000 calls — nearly four times the call volume received daily on the lines since May 1, the commission said. More than 125 TV markets took part in the test, including at least one station in each of the top 30 markets, the commission said.

During the test, programming on stations’ analog over-the-air channels was interrupted for several minutes and text advising viewers to call the FCC’s national helpline if they need help in preparing for the June 12 transition was televised.

The commission released a list of most commonly raised issues by consumers on the helpline, which included seeking information about the government’s program providing $40 coupons for the purchase of DTV converter boxes (51 percent); expressing concern about reception issues in their area (15 percent); and needing instructions to install a digital converter box (10 percent).

According to the commission, the most calls came from the Chicago media market (1310 calls), followed by New York (1277 calls) and Dallas-Ft. Worth (764 calls).