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Sanders Concerned About DTV Transition

Sen. Bernard Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, wrote Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin to register his strong concern about the digital-TV transition, using terms like "failed" and "extremely dangerous" to make his points.

Sanders’ letter came one day before he and others on the Senate Commerce Committee will hear from Martin and other DTV stakeholders about the pace of the transition and the lessons from the Wilmington, N.C., early analog-cutoff test.

Sanders charged that the government-industry DTV-education campaign failed to inform viewers they may need new antennas to get DTV and inaccurately downplayed the likelihood of needed modifications to antennas.

The "dangerous" reference had to do with viewers having to install outside antennas in cold weather. He painted the picture of seniors trying to climb onto the roof in winter in places like, say, Vermont. The DTV-transition date is Feb. 17, 2009.

Sanders was living up to his independent label by suggesting that perhaps an antenna subsidy should be contemplated similar to the DTV-to-analog coupon-subsidy program, or even that the transition date should be delayed if the antenna issue is not resolved.

Legislators, regulators and broadcasters are in almost unanimous agreement that the date should not be moved. An antenna subsidy is also a long shot, at best.