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APTS Pushes for More DTV-Education Funding

The Association for Public Television Stations said the government gets an F so far for its failure to allocate more money to convince the public about the need for the digital-TV transition.

According to a survey released on the eve of back-to-back public forums by the two key government players in the transition, efforts by noncommercial and commercial broadcasters to educate the public about the transition have made headway.

The survey responses were based on the following questions:

• "The federal government has mandated that televisions stations will transition to digital broadcasting. That is, TV stations will no longer be able to broadcast analog-TV signals. This will mean that analog-television sets will no longer be able to receive broadcast signals over the air through antennas. Such televisions sets will, however, still work on cable- and/or satellite-TV networks. How aware were you of this digital TV transition?” and

• "Considering what you know of what will be required of consumers as part of the digital-TV transition, do you think the federal government is heading in the right direction on this issue, or are they off on the wrong track?"

While 61.2% of Americans were unaware of the DTV transition in November 2006, that number was down to 51.3% in August 2007, although that still indicates a slight majority who didn't know about it.

But whether or not they knew about the transition didn't change the percentage -- about 55% -- who registered their "disapproval with what is being expected of consumers as part of the transition."

“Public broadcasters have and will continue to invest our scarce resources to help ensure a successful transition," APTS president John Lawson said in announcing the survey results, "but it’s time for the government to put some skin in the game."

APTS has been asking for more money for the transition. The National Telecommunications & Information Association was given only $5 million for its education campaign, and the Federal Communications Commission asked for $1.5 million, although both are also leveraging other government agencies to get the word out.

The cable industry launched a $200 million DTV-education campaign, and broadcasters said they are launching their multimillion-dollar public-service-announcement campaign, as well, to go along with a broader effort that includes speeches, news stories and a DTV road show.

APTS said that while PSAs are an important part of the message, direct mail, town meetings and other components are necessary and all deserve direct funding from Congress.