Cable Industry Debuts PSAs About Digital Transition

Sep 6, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The cable industry is launching its first major effort to educate consumers about the coming transition to digital television. The industry has promised legislators that $200 million worth of public service messages will air through the February 2009 digital transition.
In several ads from Strategic Perception, Los Angeles, spokespeople say, “Every TV set hooked up to cable will work just fine. … They’ve taken care of all of that transition stuff for us.”
The messages www.ncta.com/DTVSpots also promote the Web site dtvtransition.org, set up by the cable, broadcast, satellite and consumer electronics industries to offer transition information for sets not attached to cable.
The unveiling comes as legislators continue to express concern that the public is not being sufficiently informed about the transition, 18 months before it’s to take place.
In letters and comments, that concern has been raised repeatedly by House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the committee’s telecom panel. They have called on both the government and the industries involved to do more.
Broadcasters and the cable industry have promised major educational efforts, with the cable plan the first to launch.
In letters to legislators today, Kyle McSlarrow, president-CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunication Association, promised a strong commitment to see cable operators air the messages.
He said the campaign’s central goal is to tell consumers with analog sets that the transition will take place in February 2009; that cable providers will manage the transition for TVs hooked up to cable; and that for televisions not hooked up to cable, some action is needed by consumers to keep receiving broadcasts.
Late Thursday, National Association of Broadcasters President-CEO David K. Rehr and Association of Maximum Service Television President David Donovan reacted to the pro-cable tone of the campaign in a letter to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin.
In the letter, they questioned whether the “you’re OK if you are on cable” theme was inconsistent with the cable industry’s opposition to an order set for FCC consideration next week that would require cable providers either provide cable households with a converter box for any analog sets or offer both analog and digital signals for hundreds of channels.
The cable industry has argued the order is unconstitutional and forces cable companies to choose between buying millions of converter boxes or temporarily dropping some services to shoehorn current analog, digital and internet signals into systems designed for analog and not yet fully upgraded.
“Cable has created an expectation that its subscribers will continue to receive local broadcast signals after the transition,” the letter said. It also suggested the cable industry’s opposition to the order represents an attempt to undermine consumer expectations it is creating.
(Updated: Sept. 6, 3:50 p.m.)
(Editor: Horowitz)

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