By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 14, 2009
With the nation's switch to digital TV broadcasting now less than 30 days away, the Federal Communications Commission is leaving nothing to chance in its efforts to reach households that haven't prepared for the end of analog television transmission.
"We're going to schools, we're going to barbecues, we're going to picnics," said Roger Goldblatt, outreach adviser for the FCC, during a meeting yesterday to review the agency's final push. "We're going to where they are to spread the word."
On June 12, broadcasters will stop transmitting their signals in an analog format. At the latest count, some 3.5 million U.S. households may be left without TV reception, as they have not been equipped with a special type of converter box that will allow older sets to receive the new digital signals.
To bring that number down, the FCC is taking a wide array of approaches in the coming weeks, ranging from enlisting the help of the members of a firefighters union to help install the converter boxes in some homes, to retaining a public relations firm to get the message out to areas where adoption of the boxes appears to be relatively low.
As the deadline draws near, an FCC call center will be staffed with 4,000 agents to answer consumer questions (that number: 888-CALL-FCC).
The FCC's DTV transition coordinator, William Lake, said a "soft test" of the transition would take place next Thursday, to give consumers a taste of the type of reception they'll be getting after June 12. "We need to motivate and help those 3.5 million households to act in the next 30 days," he said.
The switch was originally scheduled for February, but that deadline was postponed. FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein urged Americans not to expect another postponement.
"I'm here to tell everybody that, in fact, the end is near," he said.