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FCC Calls for DTV Education

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NEW YORK The Federal Communications Commission Monday passed a sweeping order requiring TV stations, cable and satellite operators, telecom carriers, retailers and manufacturers to take measures to educate consumers about the coming transition Feb 17, 2009.

The order includes numerous steps designed to smooth the transition for consumers, while allowing industry groups some leeway in how they get the word out through on-air messages, monthly notices in cable billing statements and proper labeling and notice of the impact of the transition on TV receivers and related devices.

"One of the commission's top priorities is to do everything in its power to facilitate a successful DTV transition. Ensuring that no Americans are left in the dark after February 17, 2009 is an enormous undertaking," said Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC. "It is the commission's responsibility to ensure these parties fulfill their commitments in a correct, clear and consistent manner."

FCC commissioner Michael Copps wanted the to go further, calling for real-world testing of the transition before the switch. In a formal letter to Martin, Copps suggested that a small number of markets be switched to digital before the transition date. "Broadway shows open on the road to work out the kinks before opening night. The DTV transition deserves no less," Copps said.

Acknowledging the challenge of the technical and practical challenges of a test, Martin agreed to explore the idea with the DTV Task Force.