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Shapiro Blasts Transition Critics

Washington — Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) president Gary Shapiro told a gathering for the Media Institute, here, Thursday that industry and government partnerships to educate consumers on the digital television transition are successful, and criticized detractors for not helping the cause.

“We are doing well,” Shapiro said in his speech. “By the end of 2007, more than 50 percent of American households owned a digital television, and consumers are increasingly aware of the transition and what, if anything, they need to do in order to continue enjoying free, over-the-air television.”

Citing partnerships with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), Shapiro noted, “Our industry and government partnerships on consumer education are successful. We all joined together to found the DTV Transition Coalition which has brought together more than 200 diverse groups, all with the mission to educate consumers.”

Industry education campaigns experienced tremendous success in 2007, Shapiro said, with 74 percent of consumers familiar with the upcoming 2009 DTV transition, a jump from 41 percent in 2006.

However, Shapiro noted potential road blocks on the path to a successful transition, including a recent petition from the Community Broadcasters Association (CBA) that would significantly disrupt the transition and the NTIA DTV converter box coupon program.

Shapiro labeled such challenges attempts “to thwart innovation.”

“CBA has entirely overlooked the fact that several of the current certified converter boxes offer an analog pass-through feature. This option allows those Americans served by low-power and translator stations to receive both digital and analog signals now and after the transition,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro urged the Federal Communications Commission to deny CBA’s petition and called on CBA to begin educational campaigns to reach their consumers — much like CEA, NAB, NCTA and others have successfully done.

“The marketplace is working. The transition is working,” said Shapiro. “We are 355 days away from a vital milestone in our digital destiny.”