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FCC Preps Transition Eve Alert

In an alert it will send out Thursday, one day before the June 12 hard date for switching to digital TV, the FCC says both it and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration are now focused on the DTV at-risk populations. That comes after two days of alerts focusing on the benefits to those who make or have made the transition.

The commission said the transition, which began over two decades ago, had the goal of better pictures and sound, more channels, and more spectrum for other uses. But it also said a policy goal was minimizing disruption. "That’s why the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration are intently focused on making sure as few people as possible lose access to the valuable news, information and entertainment programming they count on," the FCC said.

The National Association of Broadcasters puts the number of DTV unready households at 1.75 million, excluding those that have taken steps to get ready--applying for a coupon not yet received or ordering and receiving a converter box not yet hooked up. Not excluding those, NAB estimates the unready figure at about 2.2 million. Nielsen puts the number at 2.8 million, though it does not exclude those with boxes not hooked up yet or subsidy coupons in hand or applied for.

"[D]espite our best efforts, some will lose television service tomorrow," said NTIA acting administrator Anna Gomez.

NTIA and the FCC detailed the outreach it has undertaken, and is still undertaking, to minimize those unready numbers and assist those who still have not made the switch by midnight Friday (1159:59 technically), when all full-power TV stations must pull the plug on analog, save for 100-plus stations that will keep on an analog nightlight service to guide viewers to DTV transition help.

NTIA is putting out the identical alert to its e-mail list.