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NTIA's Web Site Giving Mixed Message About DTV Transition Date

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration at press time was sending a mixed message about the DTV transition.

It continued to tell Web surfers under the "Tell me more about the digital TV transition" heading on its Web site home page that "at midnight on Feb. 17, all full-power TV stations in the United States will stop broadcasting in analog and switch to 100% digital broadcasting."

That comes five days after Congress voted to move the DTV transition hard date and will be news to the hundreds of stations that, on the advice of the government, aren't pulling the plug on analog as they had planned.

Elsewhere on the site, under the "coupon program update" section, it points out that the date is postponed to June 12.

The NTIA site provides information on NTIA's DTV-to-analog converter box coupon program, whose distribution problems helped prompt the decision to move the date in the first place.

Although at press time President Barack Obama had not signed the date-change bill, the FCC finessed the wording of its implementation order on the bill so that it could proceed with collecting information from broadcasters, including how many were, in fact, pulling the plug on analog Feb. 17.

An NTIA spokesperson was not available to comment on why the message had not been changed to point out that many stations won't be ending analog on that date.

By contrast, the same day the bill passed the National Association of Broadcasters' site had modified its message to point out that Congress had moved the hard date to June 12, though it encouraged viewers not to put off making their own transition to the digital signals being broadcast by virtually every station.

The FCC's DTV site has also changed its DTV transition message, perhaps best reflecting the degree to which the hard date has softened to a range of "may's" "sometime's" and "expected's."

"On Feb. 17, some full-power broadcast television stations in the United States may stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and begin broadcasting only in digital," the FCC said. "The remaining stations may stop broadcasting analog sometime between March 14 and June 12. June 12 is the final deadline for terminating analog broadcasts under legislation passed by Congress and expected to be signed by President Obama."