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March 27, 2008
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Countdown to DTV: Making the 2009 Deadline Work
PFF Releases Transcript of February Digital Television Transition Event

WASHINGTON D.C. - In just less than a year, televisions stations will cease broadcasting analog signals. Are consumers and broadcasters prepared? What remains to be done to ensure that the February 2009 transition will be a smooth one? These and other policy issues surrounding the digital television transition were discussed at a February Congressional Seminar hosted by The Progress & Freedom Foundation. Today, PFF is releasing a transcript of the event, "Countdown to DTV: Making the 2009 Deadline Work."

Meredith Attwell Baker, Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), presented the opening address at the event. Acting Secretary Baker offered an updated on the NTIA converter box coupon program and explained the significance of the digital conversion. "This is so important for America. It's so important for the next generation of innovation in our competitiveness around the world, and it's really important for the first responders," stated Acting Secretary Baker.

Rick Chessen, Senior Legal Advisor and Media Advisor in the Office of FCC Commissioner Copps, provided an overview of the possible obstacles to completing the DTV transition. Chessen cited issues surrounding consumer education, broadcaster preparedness and the hard transition deadline. "Keeping that deadline is important not only to the viewers who are potentially going to lose service but also for other stakeholders like the public safety community out there waiting for this spectrum to open up," he explained.

Anthony Wilhelm, Director of Consumer Education and Public Information at NTIA, discussed the status of the converter box coupon program and public education coordination efforts with the broadcast industry. "To me this is about gaps at this point in time over the next year," Wilhelm stated, referring to public knowledge about the transition. "We have gaps, for example, with home-bound seniors, with the senior population, with rural and insular communities, Hispanics, low-income individuals, people with disabilities, and we're working very hard with these communities to have them identify the gaps and also get the information out to their communities because they're the trusted sources."

David Donovan, President of the Association for Maximum Service Television, spoke about the technical coordination of the transition that will affect broadcasters and consumers. Donavan also addressed proposed use of unlicensed devices in "white space" spectrum. While analog broadcast signals can be susceptible to interference from certain electronic devices, "in digital it is more susceptible to interference caused by other devices radiating in the band," Donavan explained. "This is why we have been very aggressive and will continue to be aggressive on placing unlicensed devices in the band."

Debra Berlyn, Consultant to AARP and President of Consumer Policy Solutions, discussed how the transition will uniquely effect the older population. "It's very simple, there's a physical challenge involved," Berlyn explained. "Yes, it's understanding how to actually install the box... but if you're an 85-year-old person living on your own and your 40-pound TV is in a cabinet you're going to have a really hard time installing that box." She urged audience members to help parents, friends and neighbors with the DTV transition.

Initial panel remarks were followed with questions from PFF President Ken Ferree, who moderated the discussion, and audience members. Complete statements from the panelists and questions from attendees can be found in the event transcript.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation