FCC Gives Stations Leeway on Digital Switch Spots

Mar 3, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission is giving television stations more flexibility as to when they run public service announcements about the upcoming switch to digital TV signals.
Broadcasters had opposed the FCC’s original plan to require stations carry a certain number of messages each day, suggesting they needed more leeway. Under the plan announced today, stations will be able to allocate their messages in less expensive ad slots, and avoid giving away time during major ad vehicles like NFL games, the Olympics and top programs.
In January next year, TV stations will switch to digital signals, potentially leaving broadcast TV customers without newer sets or converter boxes unable to access programming. The public service announcements are meant to minimize the number of people surprised by the switch.
The FCC gave commercial broadcasters two choices regarding the public service spots.
Under the one the FCC was originally going to mandate, broadcasters would have to air a mix of public service announcements and text crawls on the screen. Once every six hours, broadcasters would have to run two text crawls and two spots of at least 15 seconds beginning April 1. On Oct. 1, they would have to run three crawls three spots every six hours.
The FCC defined the four periods of the day as 6:01 a.m. to noon, 12:01 p.m. to 6 p.m., 6:01 p.m. until midnight and 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m.
Under a second option—suggested by the National Association of Broadcasters—broadcasters would get more leeway. Broadcasters would have to provide an average of 16 public service messages and 16 crawls a week between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m., but could allocate them over a calendar quarter. Most of the public service messages would have to be 30 seconds in length.
The FCC will require that 25% of the texts and crawls under that plan run between 6 p.m. and 11:35 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time, and 5 p.m. and 10:35 p.m. Central and Mountain time. Some additional requirements will kick in Nov. 10.
Under a third option, noncommercial broadcasters would have the choice of airing 7.5 minutes per month of longer, 60-second public service messages with the messages airing between 6 p.m. and midnight.
Cable and satellite providers are required to include notices about the transition in bills but they not required to run public service messages. Some satellite TV customers get local TV channels over the air.
FCC commissioners said the plan represents a compromise. While some praised it, others suggested it results in telling consumers a transition is coming without necessarily adequately telling them what they need to do to prepare for it.
“By working together and using public service announcements, screen crawls and notifications in monthly bills, we will be able to reach as broad an audience as possible,” FCC chairman Kevin Martin said in a statement.
Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, however, said in a statement he was “concerned about the apparent focus on creating consumer awareness through billions of impressions,” said in a statement. “The goal is not simply to bombard consumers with ephemeral impressions about the transition, but to get consumers to act in ways that many will find confusing, disruptive and daunting.”
Democratic Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, who dissented in part, said the order doesn’t go far enough.
“The commission’s unwillingness … ignores sound management practices, snubs the recommendations of objective expert observers and frankly makes no sense,” he said.
(Editor: Baumann)


  1. So the FCC is mandating additional clutter during programming. Brilliant. Where is the FCC accounts payable department? I want to know where to send my bill.

  2. Any stations concerned with the future of broadcasting is going to promote the hell out of this transition. We all have the opportunity to see if we can bring back some viewers to “wireless” tv with higher quality signals and more choices. The demands we put on ourselves to make this conversion happen, should out weigh whatever the FCC wants us to do.

  3. Its nice to see that they are “educating” with continual spots in already overdone spot clusters. From my point of view, it’s not effective. reason being, some markets have more issues than “converter box” conversions. I am one example. I wrote the FCC yesterday on only geting 2 out of 6 DTV and 1 LPTV station. That’s a potential issue for several reasons on spot potency, ratings, information (strange how the most inaccurate station (WTVG) is the one I get, along with the Bowling Green, OH PBS. The rest are shotty on a good day.
    I know of other markets that have this same issue. Various antennas didn’t work.
    Now, with that being said, how much is the public being educated? I’m 120% sure, out of 100, that most of you did not realize these signals are too directional. I didn’t see that in PSA’s for that DTV.gov thing. I suppose there are no coupons for antennas, no punishments for 1996 Telecom “no’s” from landlords. this would be most people in apartments.
    Covering half the issue seems fine to the FCC. I suppose they needed to do a better study on DTV (ATSC) before forcing it down our throats.
    Those Canadians have it luckier than we. Its not mandatory to lose TV signals.

  4. Although, common sense would say that stations should be promoting this, stations that only see the bottom line, don’t want to give up inventory or spend the time to do the production. Locally, I haven’t seen one mention of the transistion other than in newscasts. The news people don’t seem to grasp the concept and end up giving out incorrect information. Not all stations are making the switch to digital. There will still be some stations broadcasting in analog, just not very many.
    My concern is that I can watch 12 analog stations. I can only receive 6 digital stations with 8 program streams. Of the digital stations, only 4 (ABC,CW,PBS,IND)are reliable. The remaining stations seem to drop out when the best programs are airing. Now, I can switch back to analog, that won’t be an option next year. I’m stocking up on old series on DVD. My kids will enjoy watching 60’s and 70’s classic programs I’m keeping for after 2/09.

  5. That’s what a cpouple of stations do, mostly out. I don’t know how i will deal with this myself.
    I’m glad I’m not the only one who mentioned lack of signal issues.

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