In comments before the FCC, the NAB chief says that while the initial switch went well, there’s still work to be done and offers recommendations to the FCC, including spending $90 million to bolster the call centers.
National Association of Broadcasters President-CEO David K. Rehr testified today at an FCC open meeting about the digital television transition and said that “broadcast television stations view the results from the Feb. 17 transition as a success — essentially a ‘non-event’ where viewer confusion and calls were relatively low. Awareness of the DTV transition was virtually saturated across the country, with national awareness at 97 percent among all television households.”
He went on to say that television viewers have gotten the DTV message. “National awareness is at universal levels. Importantly, 82 percent of over-the-air viewers had taken some action — from taking active steps to learn about the transition online or over the phone, to applying for a coupon, to actually purchasing a converter box or new TV set. Eighty-nine percent of all households know the transition affects antenna TV, as opposed to pay TV,” he said.
This success,” Rehr continued, “was driven largely by the broadcast television industry’s $1.2 billion consumer education campaign.”
But, he cautioned, challenges remain.
“The first challenge, he said, “is re-branding the June 12 date. Even before the president signed the “DTV Delay Act,” we distributed a new spot branding the new date. In fact, within 24 hours of the House passing the act, all material, Web sites and collateral information were updated. We continue to work with local stations to drive universal awareness of the new date.
“The second challenge is ensuring DMA leadership. We and our state broadcast associations … are compiling a comprehensive list of market leaders in each DMA.
“The third challenge involves scanning and re-scanning. NAB has previously distributed DTV action spots on these issues. We also released spots urging viewers to test their equipment early and to help family and friends who might have technical problems. However, communicating scanning and re-scanning information is complicated and may require an in-person explanation by an FCC call center representative.
“Notwithstanding its complexity, we are currently working on a new round of DTV action spots, in English and in Spanish. We are also producing a new 30 minute program which addresses this issue.
“The fifth challenge is the potential loss of service due to changes in digital coverage areas. We believe that there must be a balance between the important goal of providing consumers with information and avoiding confusion and unnecessary calls.”
Rehr then outlined some recommendations for FCC action:
- Extend flexibility to stations. Some stations will need to terminate analog service prior to June 12. All stations should be empowered to tailor their DTV messages for their individual station’s circumstances.
- Use FCC money wisely — and do not duplicate industry efforts on messaging or research.
- Bolster the FCC call center and train operators. The $90 million the FCC will receive via NTIA and from the economic stimulus package should fund this effort.
- Expedite the grant process to get funds to grass roots organizations quickly to spread the word and help viewers upgrade. Commissioner Adelstein, you have been a long-time champion of this cause and we wholeheartedly support it.
- Eliminate consumer education requirements for stations that have already transitioned. They confuse viewers who are not the target audience.
- Finally, substantially reduce the final week of crawls for stations transitioning early to eliminate viewer fatigue and hostility.