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FCC Adopts Digital TV Transition Rules For Educating Consumers

Broadcasters must air public service announcements, screen crawls, or other notification to give viewers accurate information on the Feb. 17, 2009, switch.

The Federal Communications Commission has adopted an order outlining how consumers will learn about the transition to digital television.

The FCC released its guidelines (PDF) Monday to help the country prepare for Feb. 17, 2009. That's when all full-power broadcast television stations in the United States will flip the switch from analog to digital broadcast signals.

The order will guide television broadcasters, multichannel programming distributors, telecommunications carriers, retailers, and manufacturers on how to notify their customers of the transition to digital television.

"One of the commission's top priorities is to do everything in its power to facilitate a successful DTV transition," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in a news announcement. "Ensuring that no Americans are left in the dark after Feb. 17, 2009, is an enormous undertaking. Significantly, it is one which no single entity, public or private, can achieve alone. Rather, it requires the commitment and cooperation of government, industry, and consumer groups. "

Broadcasters must air public service announcements, screen crawls, or other notification to give viewers accurate information on the switch, according to the FCC rules. They must provide the FCC with quarterly reports outlining their efforts.

The requirements vary to give flexibility to different types of providers. For example, multichannel video programming distributors are required to issue monthly notices in customer billing statements. Manufacturers of television receivers and related equipment are required to tell consumers whether their equipment will work after the transition.

DTV.gov partners and winners of the 700-MHz spectrum auction will be required to notify the FCC of their consumer education activities.

Telecommunications companies in the Low Income Federal Universal Service Program, for low-income customers, must include information in monthly customer billing statements and in materials targeting new customers.

The FCC said it will help the National Telecommunications and Information Agency to make sure retailers fulfill their obligations to a national converter box program.

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