Reps. Barton, Upton and Hastert sponsor legislation to boost public education efforts leading up to the 2009 switch to digital.
Legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives today dealing with a number of educational efforts related to the Feb. 18, 2009, “hard date” for turning off analog television.
The bill was offered by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking minority member of the House Commerce Committee, along with Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), ranking minority member of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, and former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who serves on the House Commerce Committee.
The bill’s key provisions include:
Require labeling and signs. Set manufacturers would be required to place labels on analog TVs. Retailers would be required to display signs near analog televisions. This would help ensure that consumers who are thinking of buying an analog television understand that after Feb. 17, 2009, they will need to connect the television to a converter-box, or to cable or satellite service, to receive broadcast television signals.
Require billing notices. Cable and satellite operators would be required to include information in their bills notifying subscribers about the DTV transition and the digital-to-analog converter-box program. Cable and satellite subscribers will be largely unaffected by the transition, but this requirement will help ensure they understand what is happening.
Broadcaster reporting. Broadcasters will be required to file regular reports with the FCC detailing what consumer education efforts they are undertaking, such as the airing of public service announcements. Broadcasters and their viewers will be among the prime beneficiaries of the DTV transition and the converter-box program, and broadcasters are uniquely suited to explain to consumers what will happen.
FCC outreach. The FCC would be required to create a public outreach program to help educate consumers. The FCC would also be required to create a DTV consumer education working group that includes representatives from the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), broadcasters, cable and satellite operators, consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers, and consumer groups. The working group would be charged with helping to advise the FCC on consumer outreach.
Energy standards. The NTIA would be required to establish energy standards for digital-to-analog converter boxes. National standards will help ensure that manufacturers can produce and distribute efficient, low-cost converter boxes for consumers nationwide.
Progress reports. The FCC would be required to submit regular progress reports to Congress on the DTV transition, including discussion of the ongoing consumer education efforts of the FCC and the private sector. The NTIA would be required to submit regular reports to Congress on the distribution and redemption of coupons for converter boxes.
Dennis Wharton, NAB executive vice president, media relations, commented on the legislation’s introduction, saying: “NAB thanks ranking members Barton and Upton and Rep. Hastert for offering legislation aimed at educating America’s television viewers about the ongoing digital transition. As we draw nearer to February 2009, we welcome all pro-consumer initiatives designed to positively educate America on the transition from analog to digital television.”