GAO Offers DTV-Policy Ideas


Concerned about the pace of the digital-television transition, the General Accounting Office is urging government action on three fronts that it claims are critical to accelerating consumer awareness and adoption of digital TV.

In a report released Monday, the GAO said the Federal Communications Commission, perhaps in partnership with private industry, should consider developing a public-education campaign to stimulate public interest in digital TV and the digital-TV transition.

On policy issues, the GAO urged the FCC to consider mandating that all new TV sets be digital-cable-ready and to determine whether it needs to establish "a date certain" for when cable should replace full carriage of analog-broadcast signals with full carriage of digital-TV signals.

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, prepared the digital-TV report for Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.). It said its recommendations were based in part on a survey that showed that only 20 percent of respondents were "very aware" of digital TV, as well as on data showing that 1 percent of TV sets sold in 2001 were capable of receiving digital signals.

In a prepared statement, Markey said he planned to craft legislation incorporating the GAO's recommendations, especially with regard to a cable-tuner mandate and the must-carry analog-to-digital switchover.

"DTV still has incredible potential for being a driver of economic growth, innovation and job creation, but only if the government provides the leadership required to jump-start much-needed economic activity by taking concrete steps to dramatically accelerate the digital-television transition," Markey said.

He added that he was troubled that the GAO found that consumer-electronics staff at retail outlets were ill-informed about digital-TV issues.

The FCC and the consumer-electronics industry both should act to ensure that consumers are receiving correct information, he said.