Washington — With 30 days remaining until the end of analog TV broadcasting, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) detailed Wednesday its wide-ranging outreach plan for those still not prepared to receive digital broadcasts.
As in the past, the plan targets six demographic groups felt to be most in need of help.
These include low-income individuals, minority communities, non-English-speaking consumers, senior citizens, consumers with disabilities, and individuals living in rural areas or tribal lands.
Activities in the FCC action plan include the following:
- About 180 FCC employees have been dispatched to communities in 49 markets that are home to the greatest concentrations of unprepared households. FCC staff members are working with local governments and community-based organizations to get the word out on DTV preparedness and educate consumers on how to get ready. FCC commissioners are also addressing concerned citizens at town hall meetings and community gatherings.
- The DTV Web site has been revamped to make it more useful, by offering information specific to each community on a variety of topics. By entering their ZIP codes in a search box, consumers can locate nearby support centers, get contact information for local stations and find DTV events near them. Online reception maps will show consumers what stations they should be able to receive with the right antenna at their home address.
- Twelve grassroots contracts have been issued to establish up to 400 walk-in centers and 12,000 DTV help clinics across the country to offer consumers hands-on assistance on how to connect and operate converter boxes, help in ordering converter box coupons and other services.
- The Commission has awarded 34 contracts for free, in-home technical assistance for consumers having trouble installing their converter boxes and adjusting their antennas for digital signals. The FCC expects to issue several more contracts within the next week, resulting in a group of contractors capable of providing up to 218,700 installations across the country. Members of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and firefighters working in cooperation with the International Association of Fire Chiefs are working in association with the contractors. Consumers can request "house calls" by dialing (888) CALL-FCC.
- Up to 4,000 operators at the FCC's national DTV help line can be reached at (888) CALL-FCC. The help line will be prepared on June 12 to troubleshoot common converter box or antenna installation problems and will refer consumers to groups providing in-home installation if more assistance is needed.
- The Commission has teamed with Consumers Union to distribute a consumer guide, written by CU's Consumer Reports, that provides clear instructions and diagrams to help viewers prepare for the transition. "DTV Made Easy," a 15-page booklet, can be downloaded from www.dtv.gov or obtained by calling the FCC's DTV help line. It also will be available at DTV walk-in help centers and mobile clinics throughout much of the country, from in-home installation helpers, and from major retailers.
- Television broadcasters nationwide will conduct a "soft test" at three different times on May 21, when analog programming will be interrupted with a special message telling viewers that if they are seeing the message, it means they are not prepared to receive a digital signal and will lose reception on June 12 if they don't take action.
- The FCC will launch a "home stretch" communications campaign coinciding with the May 21 "soft test," consisting of new Public Service Announcements, localized media announcements and interviews and grassroots educational literature distribution.
Coupons worth $40 toward purchase of a converter box can be obtained from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by visiting www.dtv2009.gov or calling (888) DTV-2009.
Each household is entitled to coupons for up to two boxes. Consumers can continue to order converter-box coupons through July 31. For the latest information on the transition, please visit www.dtv.gov, or call the DTV help line at (888) CALL-FCC. (888-225-5322).
In related news: Boynton Beach, Fla., e-commerce retailer FreeTVSignal.com is offering converter boxes for free with the redemption of a government-issued DTV converter-box coupon. The site also offers a wide range of coupon-eligible converter boxes with some added convenience features for various additional fees on top of the coupon.