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Engel Seeks More Money for DTV Education Campaign

Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY) has introduced a DTV education bill that would create a federal advisory committee for the transition from analog to digital broadcasting--and provide a lot more money to help inform consumers about the switch.

Numerous Democratic legislators--House Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell and Telecommmuniations Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey most prominently--have expressed concerns about the lack of money for DTV education. They have said it could be a train wreck in the making and legislators trying to get re-elected are more susceptible to viewer backlash than administration officials exiting just as switchover takes place in February 2009.

The Engel bill is called the National Digital Television Consumer Education Act, and itwould create a DTV transition Federal Advisory Committee to coordinate across industries and government. Among those with a stake are the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), which must administer an digital-to-analog converter box program; the FCC, which is overseeing the reallocation of all that spectrum; and the broadcast, cable and consumer electronics industries.

 NTIA was allocated $5 million for consumer education, and it is trying to leverage that money through partnerships with other government agencies like the Department of Agriculture, IRS and faith-based groups. The FCC has asked for $1.5 million from Congress for education in 2008 after having benn denied $500,000 for 2007. Broadcasters plan to donate tens of millions in airtime for public service announcements.

The Association for Public Television Stations applauded the bill.

“We are particularly pleased that Rep. Engel’s bill would provide crucial funds to support a consumer education campaign,” said APTS President John Lawson. “This funding will help to reach those groups of American households most affected by the transition from analog to digital.”

 An APTS survey found that a majority of respondents (61%) were unaware of the switch to digital.