Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) sent letters to the major government DTV stakeholders "urging" them to help consumers make the transition to digital June 12 and saying he was still concerned that millions of consumers were still unaware of the transition and were unprepared for its consequences.
It was Rockefeller who pushed for and co-sponsored the bill that moved the DTV transition hard date from Feb. 17.
The letters went to the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Federal Communications Commission, with Rockefeller tailoring his concerns to each audience.
To the FCC, he raised the issue of potential lack of in-home assistance--the agency said this week it could handle up to 200,000 such visits through its various subcontractors and volunteers--as well as potential regional converter box shortages and call center surges that might overtax both FCC and NTIA resources.
To the NAB, he asked that the group urge at least one station in all 202 eligible markets to keep an analog signal on the air as an informational nightlight. The FCC has said about 100 stations have volunteered to do so, though NAB also has said it continues to encourage other stations to join that group.
"In addition," Rockefeller told broadcasters, "I am concerned that viewers are inadequately prepared for signal losses due to changes in antenna placement and digital signal propagation, and may require notification from local broadcasters to better understand this situation. Furthermore, I fear that in the week ahead there will be a surge of calls to broadcast television stations from local viewers, and worry about the ability of stations to handle these call volumes and assist viewers directly."
To the NTIA, he echoed his concerns about converter box shortages and call center problems.
He asked all three to continue their assistance in the weeks following the transition and reminded them all that TV was not just about entertainment, but included vital news and information as well, a point that likely didn't need making to broadcasters.