Activists Diss FCC DTV Campaign

Activist group Commercial Alert is asking Congress not to fund the Federal Communications Commission's new digital-TV-education campaign.

In letters to members of the House and Senate appropriations and commerce committees, the group argued that government shouldn't be in the business of cultivating an even larger crop of obese couch potatoes.

"Do you really believe that with all the troubles facing our nation, the federal government should be on a crusade to encourage people to buy costly new television sets?," they asked. "Americans don't need the federal government telling them to buy new television sets, and they certainly don't need their hard-earned tax dollars spent in this manner. We strongly urge you eliminate all funding for this campaign immediately."

The FCC launched the DTV campaign and accompanying Web site with much fanfare Oct. 4 to help viewers learn where to get sets, how to get the best reception, and where to find DTV and HDTV programming (one place is, an industry-backed Web site that also launched Oct. 4).

Powell said he felt the government had an obligation to help consumers make intelligent buying decisions on digital products, since it was the government that was making such purchases necessary by mandating the switch from analog to digital.

In addition, the more people who can get DTV, the fewer the government will have to worry about when it reclaims analog spectrum. Powell and the FCC are under pressure to get the spectrum back as quickly as possible so it can be used for other things, particularly emergency communications.

Signatories to the Commercial Alert letter include the expected TV-turnoff folks, several Harvard Medical School faculty members plus former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.