NAB hopes DTV ad blitz clicks


WASHINGTON -- Broadcasters are planning an ad blitz designed to inform people that their analog TV sets will quit working in 2009 when programming will begin airing only in the digital format.

Valued at a little less than $700 million, the effort comes amid congressional concerns that too little is being done to let the public know that the TV system Americans have known since the mid-20th century will change on Feb. 17, 2009.

The National Association of Broadcasters announced the campaign just before House and Senate hearings this week on preparations for the DTV changeover. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation panel and a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will bring in regulators and interest groups Wednesday for progress reports on consumer education.

"I am proud that NAB is leading what may be the largest volunteer effort in the history of television, with literally every market and network involved," said Jack Sander, chairman of the NAB Joint Board of Directors and senior adviser to Belo Broadcasting. "This effort illustrates the continuing commitment by broadcasters to educating all television viewers about the TV transition."

The campaign is endorsed by nearly all the major networks and broadcast TV groups and will include regular PSAs, crawls and news tickers.

A 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office found that 21 million households -- about 19% of the nation -- rely on an antenna rather than cable or satellite to receive television signals. The poor, elderly and minorities typically depend on the over-the-air signal more than the well-to-do.

That number, however, doesn't count the roughly 70 million TV sets that Americans have in their homes that aren't hooked up to cable or satellite TV.

While lawmakers might be concerned, the Bush administration was pleased with the effort as Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said the effort will help ensure that no one goes without TV.

"NAB's consumer-education efforts in English, Spanish and closed captioning are an extraordinary commitment," Gutierrez said. "Combined with the more than 160 members of the Digital Television Coalition, this shows that industry and advocates are taking their responsibility seriously and far exceeds what the government alone could accomplish."