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D.C. Broadcasters Begin DTV Alerts

Washington — All commercial broadcasters in the broadcast television market here started airing synchronized public service announcements today warning consumers that the transition to digital broadcasting is coming — so be prepared.

The digital transition department of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) called the collective public education effort “unprecedented.”

Beginning today, WRC (4), WTTG (5), WJLA (7), WUSA (9), WDCA (20), WDCW (50),WFDC (14) and WZDC (25), representing the major broadcast networks NBC, FOX, ABC, CBS, My Network TV, CW, Univision and Telemundo, have joined together to produce and air advertising designed to help viewers prepare for the changeover from analog to digital over-the-air broadcasting, the NAB said.

That switch over to all digital broadcasts from the current mix of digital and analog broadcasts is scheduled to occur on Feb. 17, 2009. Viewers receiving their TV over-the-air on analog sets will lose their programming unless they upgrade their TVs or add cable, satellite or telco TV service or add a digital-to-analog converter box, for which government-subsidized coupons will be available soon.

The commercial spots will be “roadblocked” — airing simultaneously on all stations with news during programming on Wednesdays at 5 a.m., Thursdays at 5 p.m. and Fridays at 6 a.m. on each station.

The NAB said the My Network TV and CW stations will roadblock at noon and 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday. The times were selected to “maximize viewer attention,” the NAB said.

A similar schedule will air the following week.

“This is the first salvo in an elaborate, multi-pronged marketing campaign designed by broadcasters to prepare for this significant shift,” stated Michael Jack of WRC.

The spots will feature top talent from each station, presenting a unifying message that “digital television is coming with its dramatically clearer pictures, sound and additional programming choices.”

Allan Horlick of WUSA stated, “Broadcasters are delighted to be able to offer outstanding quality that is as fine as can be found anywhere in the world.”

Eric Meyrowitz of WDCW said, “Our over-the-air signal quality is better than cable, better than satellite and better than the phone company since the programs won’t be squeezed through a tiny wire.”

Without a subscription TV service such as cable or satellite TV, however, viewers will need to get a converter box to continue using their current analog TV sets.

“The joint ads help viewers understand what will be required and how they may qualify for help in purchasing the boxes,” stated Glenn “Duffy” Dyer of WTTG and WDCA. “Not since the introduction of color TV in the 1960s has more attention been paid to television technology, but this time the entire industry will change overnight. Our aim is to make sure consumers are ready for it,” said Frederick Ryan of WJLA.

Spanish-speaking residents will hear the messages in Spanish on Univision and Telemundo.

“Our goal is that all local communities be informed and no viewers left behind,” said Rudy Guernica of Univision.

Added Wendy Thompson of Telemundo, “This is both a major industry challenge and a critical opportunity to ensure that everyone gets the information they need.”

The stations have committed to a massive effort to make sure viewers are all aware of the transition and will supplement the message in all dayparts along with programming, news stories and Web messages over the next 465 days, the NAB transition team statement said.

Similar efforts will be taking place in every market in the country with the message that no one will be able to escape, according to the NAB.