FCC Considers DTV After-Action Report

DTV Transition: Continuing Coverage

According to the FCC, the DTV transition continues to go well. But look for the commission to put out a report on just what went right and what went wrong.

There are still about two dozen stations, mostly VHFs, with reception issues that FCC engineers are working on, trying various solutions including power increases and consumer outreach about re-scanning TV's and converter boxes.

New Chairman Julius Genachowksi praised that effort but echoed former acting Chairman Michael Copps in saying the job was not yet done.

"We understand there are some issues out there," Genachowski said. "We have heard about V's. There will be others. The commission's doors will be open to listening to broadcasters to make sure they have what they need to reach their audience as effectively as possible."

But the vast majority of stations have made the transition successfully, said the FCC's Robert Ratcliffe, acting Media Bureau chief.

The calls to the FCC help line continue to decrease, according to the FCC's Andrew Martin, from 43,000 per day on average, for the week ending June 15, to 21,000 per day, for the week ending June 22, with that number continuing to fall.

There has also been a drop in the number of calls about reception problems, said Martin. They had been 30% of calls and were now more like 20%.

Martin said NTIA continues to take only 9-10 business days to fill requests for DTV-to-analog converter box coupons despite a spike around June 12, the DTV hard date.

Former acting Chairman Michael Copps had one word in response: "Whew!" Actually, he had lots of words. While saying that the FCC could not make up in four months what should have been done in four years, he suggested the result of hard work and dedication and team work by government and industry paid off.

But he also said the FCC needed to compile a report on its experience to help future commissions and conversions, something he wished he had had after Y2K.

Genachowski agreed, saying he looked forward to hearing from the DTV transition organizers about what went right, what went wrong, and "here is what we learned to do better in the future."

And there will be a future. The commissioners pointed out that low-power stations have still to make the transition to digital.

The chairman refined his praise to spotlight the cooperation on several levels. Those included within the agency, with outside entities like Americorp, and across government agencies. He spoke of the collaboration and innovation that should be highlighted, leaving no doubt that was the direction he wanted the FCC to move in all its undertakings.

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.