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NCTA Lauded for DTV PSA Campaign Launch

The cable industry drew praise from various quarters, including key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the Secretary of Commerce, and the consumer-electronics and broadcast industries, for its new $200 million bilingual digital-TV-education public-service-announcement campaign.

“Today’s pledge by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association to immediately launch a multifaceted consumer-education campaign that includes a $200 million television-advertising commitment has provided high-definition clarity to an indispensable element to any successful DTV transition -- generating consumer awareness," said House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee chairman Ed Markey. "I urge other industry groups to similarly commence action on their own consumer-education efforts as soon as possible.”

Ranking House Commerce and Telecommunications Subcommittee Republicans Joe Barton (R-Tex.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) added their applause: "Thanks to the cable TV industry for beginning to educate not just cable customers, but everyone with a television about the coming transition to digital TV," they said. "We’ve still got more than a year before the change, but it’s important to make certain that all television viewers understand the implications when broadcasters switch from the old analog system to digital TV."

Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez added to the roll of well wishers: "This is exactly the cooperation needed to help the public become more aware of their options for transitioning way in advance." The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration has been charged with overseeing the DTV-to-analog converter box program.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which is scheduled to launch its PSA campaign in December, was also supportive of the cable initiative. "NAB’s TV board has made educating consumers about the DTV transition its highest priority," the trade group said in an e-mailed statement, "and any group or organization that helps to raise awareness of the DTV transition is helping that cause."

The Consumer Electronics Association gave cable a shout-out, as well, for launching the PSA campaign, while gently nudging broadcasters to launch theirs, as well.

“We applaud the cable industry’s impressive new consumer education initiative,” CEA president Gary Shapiro said. “We are proud to partner with our cable friends, through the DTV Transition Coalition and CEA’s own extensive education efforts, to ensure that all Americans have the necessary information about the DTV transition. We are particularly pleased that our cable partners are starting this campaign today. We also look forward to working with our broadcast partners when they begin utilizing their valuable airwaves to inform consumers about the transition.”

Jonathan Collegio, VP of the digital television transition for the National Association of Broadcasters, points out that NAB's overall education campaign is already underweigh, including a number of individual stations that have started airing their own PSAs (notably Capitol Broadcasting), as well as "a massive DTV Speakers Bureau, national DTV road show, media relations, a variety of grassroots initiatives," in addition to the PSA package.

"We are finalizing plans for the latter phases of our campaign to reach broadcast households, " he says, "and the breadth and scope of our overall plan will reinforce broadcast stations’ commitment and leadership role in educating viewers about the DTV transition."

Also weighing in was the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership. The Hispanic community stands to be particularly affected by the transition to DTV.

"Because the Hispanic households rely so heavily on over-the-air television, it will face a disproportionate impact when analog service ends,” Partnership chair Manuel Mirabal said. “By committing to air hundreds of millions [of dollars] in advertising in both English and Spanish, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association is helping to ensure that the Hispanic community receives the information they need to make decisions about how they will handle the digital transition. Today's announcement by NCTA is a significant step in the right direction."