FCC Has DTV-Heavy Schedule

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin and others at the commission are having a busy week on the digital-TV front.

On Monday, the chairman and commissioner Michael Copps were scheduled to meet with officials of Wilmington, N.C., about the test the FCC is conducting there of the digital switch. Major broadcasters in the market agreed to pull the plug on analog TV early -- Sept. 8 -- to help the government gauge the impact of the nationwide cutoff of full-power analog signals in February 2009.

"There are unknowns that no one anticipates and you find out about only when you throw that switch. That's the category that really keeps me up at night," Copps was planning to tell the town-hall-meeting audience. "That’s why this test is so important."

It was Copps' idea to conduct a test, and he again praised the chairman for helping to make it a reality.

Then Tuesday, the FCC is hosting a town meeting at its Washington, D.C., headquarters, where Martin is also expected to preside, aimed at seniors, one of the groups targeted for special attention and help.

That meeting will also include D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and WUSA anchor J.C. Hayward, a member of the National Association of Broadcasters' speakers bureau on the DTV transition. The NAB estimated that about 50,000 Washington households receive over-the-air TV exclusively. "One in five households [are] at risk of losing their television signals Feb. 17, 2009, if they do not take the necessary steps to prepare for the transition," the NAB said.

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.