NCTA Launches PSA Campaign for Digital TV

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association said Thursday that it will launch a $200 million digital-TV consumer-education public-service-announcement campaign starting this week. The cable-industry trade group is hoping that the campaign will bring in new customers while touting the clarity of cable's signal.

NCTA president Kyle McSlarrow informed key lawmakers of the campaign in a letter Thursday. With the Feb. 17, 2009, transition from analog-to-digital broadcasting fast approaching, lawmakers have been pushing broadcasters and operators to launch their campaigns.

According to the PSA on the NCTA Web site, the campaign is chiefly looking to convert some of those broadcast-only analog sets to cable.

"Every TV set you have that is hooked up to cable will still work just fine," said a folksy senior citizen with a southern drawl. "If yours aren't, just get on that Internet and these nice folks [she refers to the DTV Transition coalition Web site] will help you learn more. Cable's digital pictures are brilliantly crispy, and they have taken care of all that 'transition' stuff for us," she ads.

The pitch for crisp pictures comes as the cable industry is trying to convince the FCC that it does not need to adopt any stricter standards for quality of the TV-station signal it passes through to customers.

McSlarrow made a point in his letter to the Hill of pointing out that cable was being proactive in terms of the timing of the campaign, saying: "We also agree that consumer education should start sooner rather than later. Thus, I’m pleased to inform you that the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, on behalf of our member companies, which provide hundreds of networks and video service to 65 million U.S. households, will launch this week."

The National Association of Broadcasters has said that the broadcast industry's PSA campaign will launch in December, though some stations have already begun airing their own, and NAB's general education campaign has already begun, according to the association.

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.