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FCC, Industry Out of Sync on DTV Conversion

Government and industry may agree on the importance of informing consumers about the looming transition to digital television. But when it comes to counting the days until the deadline, they're out of sync.

Both the FCC and the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV), the broadcast industry's spectrum watchdogs, display ominous countdown clocks on their Websites. At press time, however, the two were a day apart—and it seems the government's clock is the one in error.

The FCC's DTV site,, states that analog broadcasts may continue “through February 17, 2009.” But according to its clock, zero hour comes at midnight on Feb. 16, a day earlier.

MSTV is confident that its clock at—which is counting down to 11:59:59 p.m., Feb. 17, 2009—is right. Because the clock adjusts to individual computers' internal clocks, it may vary by several seconds, says MSTV's Web guru. “But I'm a lot closer than a day off.”

Given that the deadline floated between the Senate-proposed April 7, 2009, and the House-preferred Dec. 31, 2008, before landing on Feb. 17, the confusion is unsurprising.

A spokesperson concedes that the FCC's clock is off and says the commission is working to correct it.

For instructions on testing the clocks yourself, go to

Laugh Track

As NBC continues to bet on The Office to lead a long-desired return to Thursday-night comedy dominance, some of the show's cast members will soon appear in ads encouraging viewers to place some wagers of their own.

Rainn Wilson (who plays Dwight), Jenna Fisher (Pam), Angela Kinsey (Angela), Melora Hardin (Jan) and Phyllis Smith (Phyllis) spent a recent weekend at California's Santa Anita race track shooting commercials for a new campaign promoting the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

The ads feature celebrities asking—and answering—that classic race-track query: “Who do you like today?”

Channeling the comic pig-headedness of his Office character, Wilson insisted on delivering the tagline in Spanish and reminisced about visiting Santa Anita when he “was poor and would try to turn $60 into an entire month's rent.”

But Wilson wasn't the only one blurring the line between reality and primetime fiction. Several fans at the track congratulated Smith on her recent wedding—apparently confusing the fact that it was her character who got hitched in a recent episode.

The campaign, from Conover Tuttle Pace, will air in racing programming on ABC, ESPN and TVG beginning in April. Other celebrities to be featured include actor and potential NBC late-night host Jimmy Fallon, singer Kid Rock, Sopranos star Michael Imperioli and Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.

'Friday Night' Fumbles

NBC may find the audience for its high school-football drama Friday Night Lights a bit wanting in numbers. But it can't complain about the viewers' attention to detail.

Although FNL has won rave reviews from critics, the show has drawn some penalty flags from fans who are unimpressed with the scenes of staged gridiron action.

Each week brings a new round of Thursday-morning quarterbacking, as fans take to the Internet to dissect the faux-football footage from the previous night's show.

Some fumbles are continuity issues, such as when a shot of the scoreboard shows the fictional Dillon Panthers up by 10 points while the team is leading by only four and preparing to run a play that—surprise!—results in a touchdown.

But some fans have been moved to question the wisdom of Panthers coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), who recently had the team run a trick play while leading late in the game—a no-no in the football world.

“I don't understand why Coach even called this play,” one viewer griped at, which has a forum devoted to FNL's accuracy on and off the field.

As NBC deliberates on giving the show a second season, it ought to consider the important service it provides to football fans who need coaches and players to criticize during the off-season.

With John Eggerton and Ben Grossman