New Rules for Broadcasters, New Dispute Over Digital Readiness
The Federal Communications Commission today set a few new rules for broadcasters as they prepare to turn off analog signals before or on June 12, the current deadline for the transition to digital television.
First of all, stations must provide on-air and other notifications if they anticipate that 2 percent or more of their analog viewers will lose service with digital broadcasts, even if the stations plan to gain viewers in other areas.
In addition, all stations must include information about antennas as part of their consumer education campaigns, such as if they plan to change from the VHF band to the UHF band, or if viewers may need additional or different equipment to receive a signal.
And stations must remind viewers that they will need to use the "scan" function of their digital televisions and digital converter boxes. That's because many stations will be changing service areas and broadcast frequencies, and viewers will need to periodically rescan to make sure they are getting all of the available stations.
Nielsen reported this month that 3.9 percent of U.S. households are "completely unready" for the digital transition, down from the 9.8 percent that were considered completely unready in May.
The National Association of Broadcasters is disputing Nielsen's figures and the methodology behind them. In a letter to Nielsen, NAB president and CEO David Rehr said the reports classify as "completely unready" households that have purchased converter boxes but not yet hooked them up, and households that have a converter box coupon they have not yet redeemed, or have applied for a coupon but are waiting for it to arrive.
"While these households may be technically unready in the strictest sense, it is unfair and misleading to classify them as "completely unready," especially those that have already purchased converter boxes," the letter said. "This methodology and classification overstates the number of truly unprepared households, and given the weight and widespread dissemination of Nielsen research, these reports can contribute to an unnecessary level of concern that the transition is not going well among members of Congress and regulators at the Federal Communications Commission."
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