Senators Bill May Put Stakeholders On A Thrill

October 3, 2007

Senator Herb Kohl (D) of Wisconsin has made a bill that could bring major changes to the DTV coupons program and also for the DTV information campaigns that is running in the U.S. The bill focuses on the elderly and how they are affected by the transition to DTV. This is reported by Broadcasting it is very much up to the stakeholders how they are bringing information to consumers.  Earlier critizism has focused on the only spanish speaking audience. Since then infomercialls has started to run on major TV-networks to bring the message out.

So what help are we to be expected to be present among the elderly affected by the transition?

Senator Kohl thinks that only analog households should be able to use the coupons. Not as today when any household can use the coupon. Since the budget is limited it is a wise move. Also, information campaigns should be on TV. Well that is up and ruinning already. And not only households but also nursing homes and assisted living facilities should be included as recievers of coupons. Thats a great move in one way. But, isnt most of these facilities using cable TV? Can anyone tell me how that works? I think time is crucial here. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities would be better of if they had information sent to them or even people calling them och paying them a visit to alert them in time about the upcoming transition. for eldelry the TV is a important connection to the world. And remember they belong to the real TV-generation. For them the TV was the new thing, once bringing something really new to their lifes. We better treat them with respect.

Our experience in Sweden is that the talk and worries about the elderly that has to do something to be able to watch TV after a transition did not match the actual outcome. There have been very much less cases with elderly having serious troubles due to the transition than anyone could expect. It is hard for some to connect the converter box to a tv-set. It is harder to adjust to the fact that one more remote control is needed to make the channel selection. It is an adjustment and the products are often to complicated for people with little computer knowlede to handle. If you are used to computers you are often used to think in terms of “menus” and setup systems. We alerted the local stakeholders in more than nine months ahead of the acutal transition to make shure they had enough time to adjust and make wise decisions.

The makers of converterboxes dont usually think in simple terms. I often think that Apple should make a converterbox, because they are experts in simple user friendly formats and products. Think about it. What if the Apple TV also included a converter for DTV?  That would be neat and great I beliave. There is a lot of tuners that makes your Apple computer become even a HDTV reciever. How bout the other way around?

Anders Bjers


Public DTV Information Campaigns to Start In December ´07

July 26, 2007

Today’s hearing in the U.S. Senate put some limelight on the event that will affect about 20 million U.S households. Good news is that NAB will launch public announcements airing in December, according to LA Times. Mainstream media reported from the hearing focusing on the deep concerns that Senators expressed today.

Reuters headlines its piece: Many in the dark about TV switch: U.S. lawmakers.

Fox News carries the story from AP headlined: Senators Worried About TV ‘Train Wreck’

The L.A Times business reporter Jim Puzzanghera write that Senators decries the present conditions among TV-viewers. The efforts that are made this far by the Government and Government agencies are to few and very late. Senators raised concerns that voters/ consumers would call them and not the stakeholders in the TV industry if the transition backfires.

Reactions in the blogosphere follows the same beat. Nate Anderson at Ars Technica writes about the problems seniors will face because of the transition. Since the group above 50 watches TV more than 5.5 hrs a day and their generally low understanding of the transition and converter boxes. Anderson writes that “you have the conditions for a perfect storm”. He also writes ads:”Disgruntled seniors are unlikely to storm Washington with torches and pitchforks, but they are a powerful voting bloc”.

Multichannel News reporter Ted Hearn, writes that the DTV transition scares Senator McCaskill (D-Mo). She finds the transition is already tomorrow by Governmental standards. And the Senator ads “There is no anger that comes close to the anger of an American who can’t get television.” writes Hearn.

NAB estimates that there are about 69 million analog TV-sets in U.S. households that can go dark on February 17, 2009. NTIAs converter box coupons will only suffice for 33.5 million converter boxes with the budget that are expected. NAB also estimates that 60% of consumers are not aware of the transition to DTV as of today. But even these figures varies among stakeholders.

I find it remarkable that the facts about TV viewers still are unclear. It is one thing if people know about the transition date as such. But the core challenge to manage is to make consumers understand what to do or if they are affected at all. For me this hearing is a benchmark for the status of the transition. I really don’t expect that politiceners will know the details of the transition. And I do really wonder what the politiceners can come up with to turnaround the present state of the transition.

In my view there is no one else better suited for the mission than the TV industry. They have the real ways and means to make the transition smooth and successful.

Their secret tool?

Anders Bjers

State of U.S DTV Transition – Confusing, Underfunded With Low Consumer Preparedness

July 26, 2007

Today’s hearing in the U.S Senate created a wave of concerns on the status of the U.S transition to digital TV. Again and again the panelists pointed out how underfunded the information efforts are in the U.S. Also compared to Germanys and the U.Ks transition campaigns. Today 22 Cent is now spent on each household for information about the transition. But no information campaigns are on the roll. In Sweden there was one dollar spent on each household on information.

Confusing and contradicting information is flourishing the U.S DTV transition today. Different definitions and terms are used by stakeholders. One example is that stakeholder’s isn´t using the word “converter box” to describe the equipment to be used with the analog TV set. Panelists warned that the confusion is high not only among poor and elderly but also among professionals. The elderly will be the hardest to reach and they are among the majority of analog TV users, according to a new study made by APTS. And there is still a confusion among officials about how many households that are really affected by the transition.

The Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) released a statement prior the hearing saying: “The time to act is now—before the digital transition devolves into digital disaster. We must work together to ensure that no citizen is left behind in the transition to digital television”.

The Chairman concluded the hearing by saying “I assure you that congress has heard your message, and we will do something about it”.

Anders Bjers

Follow Today´s Hearing in Senate About DTV Awareness

July 26, 2007

Beginning today at 10 A.M (EST) the U.S. Senate will hold a hearing about the preparedness of consumers for the DTV transition. The witnesses that will participate in the two panels are:

Panel 1.

Ms. Nelda Barnett
Member, Board of Directors
Mr. Alex Nogales
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Hispanic Media Coalition
Ms. Nancy Zirkin
Vice President/Director of Public Policy
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Panel 2.

The Honorable John Kneuer
Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Communications and Information
National Telecommunications Information Administration
Ms. Cathy Seidel
Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Federal Communications Commission

If you want to listen to the hearing you can do that at the C-span service Capitolhearings.

Anders Bjers

DTV Transition a “Train Wreck” According to D.C. Media Expert

July 20, 2007

The efforts to alert consumers on the forthcoming DTV transition is being blasted as to poor and to late, even before information campaigns are launched or even outlined to the public. Latest in the row is Andrew Schwartzman, the President and CEO of Media Access Project (MAP). This according to National Journals web edition.

Mr. Schwartzman is cited to have expressed that “This really calls for a [sweeping] governmental program. The public isn’t going to pay a lot of attention to these voluntary efforts”. Later he also expressed concerns that consumers with little knowledge in english, elderly and poor would be worst of when it comes of understanding the impact of the transition. Also the NTIA coupons program would fall short of it´s goals. Officials from NTIA and NAB disagreed with the negative predictions and instead expressed concerns that all efforts must be concentrated on making the transition a success.

I beliave that the lack of information about the different efforts and campaigns that will alert consumers, creates a context of doubt among many professionals. For example, NAB or the DTV Coalition doesn´t communicate hardly anything about the status of the preparations. Neither local or national media have something to report about, or haven´t got any interest yet in the DTV transition. The vaccum brings more anxiety to the subject then is needed. I am actually astonished how little information or discussion there is on the web about the transition. And with an upcoming hearing in the U.S. Senate the field is possibly set for more critical voices.

Anders Bjers

U.S. Senate Prepares Hearing on DTV Awareness

July 13, 2007

Interestingly enough the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold a hearing on July 26, due to concerns about lack of information campaigns to bring awareness to consumers about the forthcoming transition to digital TV on Feb 17 09. The headline for the hearing is: Preparing Consumers for the Digital Television Transition.

With less than two years to go there are no converterboxes on the shelfs, no campaigns in full swing and an awareness among consumers below 40%. Members of the Senate are probably growing worried that the transition has a too steep hill to climb when it comes to prepare and alert consumers in time before the analog broadcasts ends.

Maybe a hearing sounds boring. That little of interest would come out of a hearing like this. But watch the list of witnesses grow and decide later if its worth to listen in or not.

I hope more national and local media will pick up what is said during the hearing. If nothing else – to learn about the transition. I also think it can be a great opportunity for different stakeholders to check what the status is on the preparations in the TV-industry. On he other hand with no boxes in stores you don’t want to get people alerted yet. Alerted or aware is the same as to activate consumers.

Some weeks ago I was on an expert panel at GAO, U.S. Gov Accountability Office. That panel also focused on information campaigns that bring awareness to consumers. It’s a delicate challenge. When it is about TV it is even more delicate. To turn off the analog signals to peoples TV sets is something many consumers will have a hard time to understand the reason for, in the first place. Many more reviews are to expect.

Stay tuned for more.

Anders Bjers