Martin Open to DTV-Transition Field Testing

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin said Tuesday that he has reached out to broadcasters to see if any are willing to hold digital-TV-transition tests in their markets. He did not say what response he had gotten, if any.

FCC commissioner Michael Copps called for testing, whether of a market or individual tests of equipment and signals, before the Feb. 17, 2009, cutoff date for full-power analog-TV broadcasts. Copps made a formal request Monday, to which Martin quickly responded.

Martin said several months ago that he didn't think there was enough time to conduct the tests and that he thought it might distract the commission from other matters.

He said Tuesday in a briefing with reporters that he still wasn't sure there was enough time for testing an entire market -- essentially pulling the plug on analog early and seeing what happens -- but he asked for volunteers and also thought individual testing might be a way to get testing done in time.

In any event, he added, he didn't think the FCC had the authority to mandate the testing.

"Commissioner Copps suggested both publicly and to me that we try to find some digital television test markets where all the broadcasters might be willing to go digital and turn their analog signal off early so we could see what the impact would end up being," Martin said. "I told him I thought that was a good idea but that there were no markets that had volunteered.

"I have reached out to some of the broadcast organizations to ask them to identify any markets in which some broadcasters might be willing to be a test market," he said, "I don't disagree with the suggestion, but I don't think we have the authority to require anyone to be a test market but I think if we can find someone who would offer to engage in that test sometime next fall, that would be helful."

He said he would test in more than one market, if there were volunteers, and has asked Commissioner Copps for suggestions.

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.