Digital broadcasting official resigns

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WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration official who heads the agency charged with ensuring the smooth transition of the television industry to digital broadcasting is leaving that post.

John Kneuer was named administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in May 2006 by President Bush. Kneuer will resign this month to pursue new opportunities, agency spokesman Todd Sedmak said Friday.

Kneuer's resignation as the president's top telecommunications adviser comes amid considerable concern on Capitol Hill over the manner in which the government is handling the conversion by television broadcasters from analog to digital broadcasting.

On Feb. 18, 2009, tens of millions of televisions that are not equipped to receive digital signals will no longer be able to receive programming. Congress committed $1.5 billion for viewers to spend on converter boxes that will translate digital signals for older televisions, but only $5 million of the total was earmarked for consumer education.

After the first of the year, the government will be making available to each household two coupons worth $40 each that can be used to buy two converter boxes. The NTIA is responsible for administering the program.

Kneuer has made numerous appearances in recent months before committees on Capitol Hill providing updates to members of Congress who have expressed concern that the public is still largely unaware that the transition is coming.

Sedmak said Kneuer's resignation was his own decision and that his departure will have no impact on the preparations for the transition.

"We have the people and policies and programs in place for this project to be successful and all our other projects," he said.

Taking over Kneuer's duties until the White House nominates a replacement will be Meredith Baker, deputy assistant secretary, who will serve as acting NTIA administrator.

Kneuer joined NTIA in October 2003. Before his arrival, he was with the Washington law firm Piper Rudnick.

NTIA is part of the Commerce Department.
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