Copps 'really worried' about digital TV transition
EmptyLAS VEGAS -- FCC commissioner Michael Copps on Tuesday called for greater efforts to educate the public about a government-mandated switch-over to digital television signals in two years.
Copps, appearing alongside fellow commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, told the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters that there was a possibility of serious disruptions when analog TV signals go off the air on Feb. 17, 2009.
"I am really worried about this entire transition process," Copps said at the NAB convention in Las Vegas. The guiding principle, he said, should be "no consumer left behind."
When the change to digital television or "DTV" occurs, viewers who don't have digital-compatible televisions and use traditional antennas won't be able to view broadcast TV signals unless they have a digital converter box.
Congress has set aside $1.5 billion to help subsidize the purchase of those boxes, which are likely to cost at least $60 each. Every household will be eligible to receive two coupons worth $40 each to buy them.
With the deadline less than two years away, concerns have been growing that not enough people are aware of the switch-over or what will need to be done to make sure their sets still work.
Digital TV signals have higher image quality and enable stations to broadcast more than one channel on the same frequency. They also take up far less spectrum than traditional analog signals.
However, many are concerned that not enough is being done to prepare for a smooth switch-over. Digital converter boxes aren't in stores yet and aren't likely to go on sale until next January, about a year before the change.
Copps called for more efforts in both the private and public sector to educate the public about the issue.
NAB President David Rehr, moderating the discussion with Copps and Tate, detailed several educational programs that the organization is planning as well, and pointed to the efforts under way in the United Kingdom to manage the digital transition there.