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Big, Small Broadcasters Spar Over DTV Campaign

The National Association of Broadcasters and the low-power TV lobby continue to differ over the digital-TV-education campaign, if not on the overarching goal of keeping analog viewers from losing their signals in the transition to digital.

The NAB said Thursday that it will launch a Web site this month,, to provide information on how viewers can continue to receive those signals after the Feb. 17, 2009, transition to digital. Low-power stations are not required to go digital on that date.

That is according to NAB president David Rehr, who wrote David Tannenwald, counsel to the Community Broadcasters Association, to express his concern about a news story that said the CBA was "threatening to disrupt efforts to educate viewers about the [digital transition] if their concerns aren't dealt with."

The CBA is concerned that viewers are being told that TV is going digital in February 2009 when thousands of its stations won't be, and that most of the DTV-to-analog converter boxes being subsidized by the government don't pass through the analog signals that low-power stations will be sending out. potentially for years after that transition date.

The CBA wants the government to require manufacturers to include analog pass-through in their boxes, saying that not to do so violates the Federal Communications Commission's all-channel receiver act. That was a 1962 law that required "all television receivers shipped in interstate commerce, or imported into the United States, for sale or resale to the public be capable of receiving all channels allocated to television broadcasting."

"I find it unfortunate that, as the NAB and others are attempting to help address and solve the problem facing LPTV viewers, the CBA lashes out with threats rather than working on solutions," Rehr wrote. "It is also disappointing that, as recently as four months ago, the CBA, in written testimony submitted to the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, failed to raise this issue."

But Rehr also said the NAB wants to make sure that all TV audiences have the information they need.

Greg Herman, vice president of technology for the CBA, said the quote was not from the CBA, but a reporter's interpretation of what it had to say. "We have said all along that we need to make sure the [DTV transition] information is accurate," he said, adding that the CBA would be "glad to work with the NAB and everyone else, but right now, we are not terribly satisfied with what we have heard."

He said the full-power public-service announcements the NAB is airing don't mention low-powers at all. In addition, CBA executive director Amy Brown said, a low-power TV advisory committee was launched "and not one member of our organization was ever contacted to join or to advise it. We're concerned about how they are going to help up out if they haven't even talked to us."

Herman said that rather than disrupting matters, the CBA wants to ensure an accurate campaign. "Saying analog television ends Feb. 17, 2009, is not accurate information," he contended. "If one wants to interpret the fact that we want a fair, reasonable and honest message to be promulgated as disruptive to somebody, arguably, OK. I think that means being honest with the American people."