FCC Eyes 80 Markets for DTV Awareness Push

The Federal Communications Commission has targeted 80 markets for a nationwide initiative to increase awareness about the upcoming transition to digital TV on Feb. 17, 2009.

The outreach plan, which includes holding a public event in each market, was revealed Monday (Aug. 18) during a press briefing held early this afternoon in Washington, D.C.

Also next week, beginning Sept. 8 at noon, Wilmington, N.C. will serve as a test market for the DTV transition. Broadcasters will transmit all their commercial programming on digital channels only and provide information about the DTV transition on the analog channels, directing consumers to options they can pursue to receive digital broadcasts. Other stations have also conducted or plan to conduct similar tests.

Markets the FCC plans to visit prior to the transition deadline include those in which more than 100,000 households or 15 percent of households rely solely on over-the-air signals for TV and markets. The plan is also designed to educate those consumers most vulnerable to losing TV reception because of the transition such as seniors, people living in tribal and rural areas, people with disabilities, individuals with low-incomes, minorities and non-English speakers.

Although some 80 percent of consumer are currently aware of the DTV transition, another 20 percent could still be left in the dark.

“As part of our efforts to prepare consumers for the transition, we have identified television markets in which the largest number of viewers will have to take action to be prepared for the transition six months from now,” said Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC, who was joined at Monday’s briefing by representatives from the National Association of Broadcasters, Consumer Electronics Retailer Coalition, Consumer Electronics Association, and the National Cable Telecommunications Association.

“This unprecedented nationwide tour by the entire Commission is part of our commitment to prepare and educate consumers about the digital television transition,” Martin said.
The NAB and the DTV Coalition will be assisting the FCC throughout the tour.

At each stop, there will be a public event, town hall meeting, workshop or roundtable with an FCC Commissioner on hand. The FCC also plans to work with local broadcasters and radio stations to increase the number of public service announcements aired.

Markets on the list vary from some of the largest to some of the smallest, from New York, Chicago and Boston to smaller markets such as Lubbock, Tex.; Helena, Mont.; and Twin Falls, Idaho.