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Obama Adviser Favors Transition-Team DTV Watcher

Adviser to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Federal Communications Commission chairman William Kennard said Tuesday that he would recommend that someone on the transition team be named to monitor the progress of the digital-TV transition.

Full-power TV stations must pull the plug on analog signals Feb. 17, 2009, only three weeks after a new president is sworn in.

"It is going to be a very challenging transition,” Kennard said. “And the areas that are going to be most problematic are low-income people, elderly people and minorities, who are most at risk of losing their TV service altogether. Someone needs to be focused on this."

Asked if he would recommend that someone be the designated DTV-transition watcher for the campaign, Kennard said, "Absolutely. Someone needs to be doing that. When you think you are going to have a new president-elect, then an inauguration in early February, who is going to be minding the store during that time? That is a great idea. Someone should be doing that."

Kennard spoke at the Access to Capital Conference in Washington, D.C., trading policy positions as an Obama campaign surrogate with John Kneuer, former head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Kneuer said he did not have conversations with the campaign about naming a DTV-transition minder, but, speaking as the former head of the NTIA, the transition will be "largely done" by the time the new president comes in.

He added that given the "billions of dollars in advertising and consumer education from the private sector," by the time the new president comes in, "everything that is called for in the transition statute will be accomplished."

Kennard is currently managing director of investors The Carlyle Group, while Kneuer is senior vice president of Rivado Networks.

John Eggerton
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.