US congressman Joe Barton, father of legislation setting a digital switchover deadline of February 17, 2009, has introduced a new bill calling for a consumer education campaign which will guide US households through the transition to digital-only broadcasting.
Last February, President Bush signed into law a bill championed by Barton declaring a 'hard date' for switchover. Under earlier legislation switchover had been targeted to take place by December 31 last year, or when 85% of US households had digital receivers. With an estimated 21m US homes still relying on analogue-only television, that transition could have taken a decade or more to complete.
The new law also established a $1.5bn fund to provide subsidies for consumers making the transition. Households will be provided with up to two coupons each worth $40 to be spent on analogue television converter boxes.
Barton said provisions in last year's bill had been designed to educate consumers, but those provisions were "stripped out and left behind" during its legislative passage. His draft Digital Television Consumer Education Act would now address the missing provisions, and force consumer electronics retailers to display signs near analogue sets, as well as imposing a requirement on broadcasters and the US media regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to provide regulator switchover progress reports.
"Digital televisions are selling like umbrellas in a thunderstorm, outpacing all expectations, and the February 17, 2009 transition date is still two years away. But we should use our transition time wisely," said Barton.
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