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3/16/2009
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FCC Rules Aim To Preserve Public Safety In Final DTV Switch

TV stations will have to implement additional educational services to help viewers understand what they need to do to maintain TV reception after June 12.

Learning from the first wave of TV stations that switched from analog to digital TV broadcasting in February, the Federal Communications Commission has issued a new set of rules for broadcasters to follow as they complete the transition.

Noting that about one-third of the country's full-power broadcasters have already ceased analog programming, the FCC said it's establishing rules that will provide "an analog lifeline of vital news, public affairs, and emergency broadcasts to consumers who need more time for the switch."

For instance, if at least 2% of a station's viewers could lose service, the station must provide on-air and other notifications of the possibility of service loss. In addition, all stations must educate their viewers on the use of antennas and the importance of periodically using the rescan function of their digital TVs and converter boxes.

"The guiding principle here is simple -- consumers deserve to know the truth," acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps said in a statement. "They will forgive a lot, but they won't forgive being lulled into a false sense that the transition will be less disruptive or less expensive than it turns out to be."

The first wave of TV stations switched from analog to digital broadcasting Feb. 17, and the remaining stations will be required to switch by June 12. Some consumers, however, can't get the new digital signals and will need to acquire satellite or cable service to continue to get reception.

The new FCC rules seek to ensure that public-safety features of TV broadcasting are supplied. If more than 10% of a major network affiliate station's viewers will lose service, the federal agency said that the affiliate will be responsible for supplying other public-interest conditions, including walk-in and call-in assistance and general digital TV education.


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