100-day countdown requirement waived temporarily
What a difference a couple of weeks make! Remember a week or two ago, when the FCC came out with new orders and proposals changing the DTV consumer education rules that had been in place for a year? And remember how the new approach included the requirement that stations which had chosen DTV consumer education Option Two (the NAB plan) would have to re-start their 100-Day Countdown calendars as of March 4? The night before that requirement was to kick in, the Commission changed course again.
On March 3, the FCC waived the new-and-improved 100-Day Countdown requirement pending resolution of the February 20 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). So scratch that new 100-Day Countdown, at least for the time being.
The Commission is concerned – and properly so – about potential viewer confusion. The proposals currently under consideration contemplate a gradual DTV roll-out between April and June, meaning that some stations will be transitioning in advance of the new June 12 national transition date. That being the case, the FCC is trying to figure out what kind of count-down makes sense: one tied to the broadcasting station’s own particular transition schedule, one tied to the national deadline, or possibly some combination of the two, or maybe even some other alternative that includes the transition schedules of other stations as well.
That question, and others raised in the NPRM, are expected to be addressed no later than March 13. At that point the FCC will give us all instructions as to how to proceed. Until then, though, the 100-Day Countdown requirement has been waived.
In announcing the waiver, the FCC stressed that all other DTV consumer education requirements aside from the countdown remain in place in the meantime,. Therefore, stations must continue to air their PSA’s and crawls; they just don’t have to add countdown announcements as yet. In fact, any station that has started such announcements should stop at once.