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DTV Boss Makes Early Transition

The head of the Bush Administration agency overseeing the digital-TV-to-analog converter-box-subsidy program is leaving the agency soon, only about six weeks before the launch of one of the most critical missions for the National Telecommunications & Information Administration.

NTIA Administrator John Kneuer, who joined the Department of Commerce agency in October 2003, is leaving for employment in the private sector, a decision that was completely his own, said a spokesman.

The NTIA, the administration's telecommunications-policy advisor, last week named Meredith Baker deputy assistant secretary for communications and information and deputy NTIA administrator, to replace Kneuer until a permanent administrator for the agency can be found.

Kneuer's exit comes only weeks before the Jan. 1, 2008, launch of the digital-converter-subsidy program the NTIA is overseeing. In the program, households will get up to two $40 coupons toward the purchase of a DTV-to-analog converter box that will allow over-the-air analog-only TV sets to continue to receive a signal after the February 2009 conversion to digital.

The NTIA outsourced the administration of the program to IBM, and spokesman Todd Sedmak said, “John is proud of the work accomplished while here and knows that the pieces are in place to successfully finish the NTIA's workload.”

Kneuer has taken some heat from congressional and FCC Democrats over what they see as a lack of coordination of the DTV-transition-education program, although he has argued that there is adequate communication among agencies.

Baker, NTIA interim boss, has been in her current post since February, but she has been with NTIA since 2004, when she joined as a senior advisor.

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.