On February 17, 2009, all full-powered local broadcasters must switch their analog signals to digital which means viewers will need a Digital TV, a digital converter box or a pay TV subscription to continue watching television.
However, congressional leaders and industry analysts have expressed concern that millions of Americans are still not aware of the transition and therefore could lose their signals when the switch occurs.
In a letter sent yesterday to the president, NAB CEO David Rehr reminded Mr. Bush that the Digital TV transition is now less than 300 days away.
He urged the president to consider several new DTV educational initiatives such as the creation of a Digital TV postage stamp and including DTV transition flyers along with Social Security checks.
Rehr also suggested that the president, or Vice President Dick Cheney, participate in a TV ad spot on the DTV switchover.
"We are respectfully requesting your assistance in informing American households about the transition," Rehr said in the letter.
The NAB chief added that technology companies worldwide spent billions of dollars to ensure that the Y2K changeover went smoothly in the year 2000.
"We will need a similar effort of such scale for the DTV transition to succeed," he told the president. "The DTV transition will fundamentally change the way the American people get news about their communities, emergency situations and entertainment. We want to enlist the help of the federal government and the Administration to ensure that happens as seamlessly as possible."
The fact that we're less than 300 days away from the transition and the NAB chief now feels compelled to urge the President of the United States to get involved speaks volumes about how serious this problem is.
It also underscores just how poorly the government has prepared for the transition. Rehr's letter reads as if he not's certain that President Bush himself is aware of the switchover.
Good luck to us all on February 17, 2009.
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Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He has been quoted in dozens of publications and broadcast outlets, including CNN, Fox News, Inside Edition, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Financial Times, The Associated Press and The Hollywood Reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 703-505-3064.
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