Feb. 17, 2009, on Boucher’s Mind

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Washington -- Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) became the latest voice to raise concerns about the upcoming transition to digital TV Feb. 17, 2009, in a speech at the 14th Annual American Cable Association Summit here Wednesday.

“Be assured, that date is not going to change,” he said. “Congress will not adjust it. Having said that, I would also tell you that we have some broad concerns about how effective this transition is going to be.”

Boucher continued, “Congress appropriated last year $1.5 billion for subsidies for the digital-to-analog converter boxes that would enable people to continue to keep their analog sets in operation. We are deeply concerned that that amount of money is not sufficient; and that there will be millions of very angry people across the country who will not get a subsidy or, if they do, it will be a small subsidy in comparison to the cost of the digital-to-analog converter box.”

He added, “I was arguing for about $4 billion which, I think, perhaps would have been adequate to do the job well and provide a converter box at no cost to anybody who needed one in order to keep their analog set in operation.”

On the subject of education the public about the digital-TV transition, Boucher said, “At a minimum, people ought to know that this is going to happen in 2009, so if they're planning to purchase a television set between now and then, they'll be certain to buy one that has a built-in digital tuner. There are still millions of sets on the market that do not.”

He added, “I think it's important that we have a public-relations campaign. The broadcast industry, in partnership with the consumer-electronics industry, is planning to launch that effort. They will have public-service spots that would talk about the impending transition and what consumers need to know in order to handle it effectively.”

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