Vacuum the red carpet, gas up the welcome wagon, get a couple of keys to the city copied up and notify the media. The FCC has announced that, between now and February 17, 2009, the Commissioners themselves are hitting the road, “fan[ning] out” across the country to “raise awareness and educate consumers” about the coming DTV transition. Each stop will feature a “public event”, such as a town hall meeting, workshop or roundtable with a Commissioner, who will (the FCC assures us) also “be available to local press”.
A phalanx of FCC staffers will precede by a couple of days the arrival of a Commissioner in each town. The staffers will provide technical and outreach assistance to broadcasters, local officials and others interested in a smooth transition.
Targeted markets include all markets in which more than 100,000 households or at least 15% of the households rely solely on over-the-air signals. The Commission has released a list of 81 markets that will be visited between now and February. Dates for 23 of the visits have been released. Perhaps not surprisingly, the
visit to Anchorage and Fairbanks is set for August, while the trip to Phoenix is scheduled for the end of December. Details of the visits will be released by the FCC later.
Meanwhile, the Commission has announced that the Wilmington, NC DTV test will commence on September 8 at noon, at which point the local commercial network affiliates and the local Trinity Broadcasting low-power station will broadcast their standard programming on digital channels only. BUT the Commission has carved out an exception that will permit the participating to broadcast emergency information in analog should the need arise – for example, if a hurricane should threaten the area. (Note that, when the transition does finally arrive in February, 2009, stations will not be permitted to broadcast anything – emergency or not – on their analog channels.) In addition, during the Wilmington test period the participating stations will be broadcasting, in analog, a message advising viewers of the test and alerting them that, if they are seeing the message, they need to upgrade to digital.
And one more thing – the Commission has established a Speakers Bureau which will arrange DTV-related presentations, free of charge, to any group anywhere in the country requesting one. Just go to www.fcc.gov and click on the “Request A Speaker” button.