The nation’s capital was designated the country’s next “Digital TV Zone,” by the National Association of Broadcasters, but the program’s other founding partner — the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) — was not invited to participate.
The program, which was announced as a partnership effort at January CES, is designed to bring local broadcasters, DTV manufacturers and retailers together to promote the transition to Digital TV.
For the earlier DTV Zones in Houston, Texas, Indianapolis, Ind., and Portland, Ore., CEA had solicited the loan of digital TV sets and monitors from its member manufacturers and retailers for public demonstrations and educational programs, and contributed other resources to help build awareness of DTV broadcasting.
But in the Washington effort the NAB opted to work independently — soliciting sponsorships from Zenith and local retailers Tweeter Etc., Graffiti, and Myer Emco. (Other retailers are expected to be named shortly.)
According to Jeff Joseph, spokesman for the Arlington, Va.-based CEA, the organization would have participated again if it had been asked by the NAB.
Neither party chose to comment on the reasons for the split.
Joseph called the NAB’s decision “unfortunate,” while an NAB spokesman said only that the association was using the resources of Zenith and area retailers.
The two groups had been at odds recently over FCC Chairman William Powell’s DTV tuner mandate, although initially both associations had agreed to put their industries’ differences aside to promote the DTV cause.
Some had also speculated that NAB members were frustrated that more CE manufacturers and retailers had not advertised on local DTV stations in the designated markets. The NAB did not return phone calls for comment on the issue.
John Taylor, Zenith communications VP, said his company is advertising locally on DTV stations in the Washington area (tagging retail partners including Circuit City) as well as on national broadcast networks.
A number of other CE manufacturers have opted to advertise with networks on a national level.
The NAB said it selected Washington as the next DTV Zone because its local broadcasters are considered “leaders” in DTV broadcasting. Area stations include WRC (NBC), Channel 4; WTTG (FOX), Channel 5; WDCA (UPN) Channel 20; WJLA (ABC), Channel 7; WUSA (CBS), Channel 9; WFDC (Telefutura), Channel 14; WETA (PBS), Channel 26; WBDC (WB), Channel 50; and WPXW (PAX), Channel 66.
Taylor added that the market is also strategically important due to its concentration of federal legislators and regulators, who are now making policy decisions for the DTV transition.
The program will establish a number of “Digital Landmarks,” which are high traffic locations outfitted with HDTV sets and monitors supplied by Zenith and the program’s retail partners.
Landmark locations include: Union Station on Capitol Hill and the Reeves Center at 14th and U Streets, NW.
Additionally, Zenith will provide widescreen HDTV sets for neighborhood “watch parties,” along with local retailers.
Local broadcasters, meanwhile, will air the spot “Time Marches On,” which takes a historical look back at the first broadcast of a TV signal, the innovation of color and Digital TV.