National Association of Broadcasters

February 5, 2009
Dennis Wharton
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Testimony of NAB President and CEO David K. Rehr Before the FCC

WASHINGTON, DC - The Federal Communications Commission held an open meeting today to hear testimony on issues related to the digital television transition. Below is a transcript of oral testimony given by NAB President and CEO David K. Rehr.

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Chairman Copps, Commissioner Adelstein and Commissioner McDowell.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. My name is David Rehr and I am President and CEO of NAB, representing America's TV broadcasters.

Before turning to the topic of this panel, I would like to comment about the DTV transition. NAB's written testimony details the comprehensive effort broadcasters have taken to inform viewers of what they need to do to be ready for digital television.

Let me give you the short version: NAB and broadcasters have mounted a $1.2 billion plus consumer education effort – the largest in history of television.

The result is: 97 percent awareness of the switch to all-digital broadcasting. And, 82 percent of over-the air households have taken action. The level of consumer awareness and action demonstrates that broadcasters' efforts have been and are working.

We stand ready to assist the administration and this Commission to make sure that all critical steps have been taken to inform and prepare the public for June 12.

We commend you, Chairman Copps and your fellow Commissioners, for your leadership in this area.

Anticipating the June 12 date, NAB has already taken action to inform stations and viewers of what they need to do, including:

  • Distributing to stations via satellite earlier today a new NAB-produced 30-second spot in English and Spanish promoting the June 12 date.
  • Informing television stations yesterday of what they need to do to alert viewers to June 12 and what actions should be taken.
  • Hosting a webcast for stations tomorrow, to discuss June 12 and attendant issues.
  • Continuing to strongly encourage all eligible stations to participate in the FCC's analog nightlight program.
  • Continuing our empirical-based consumer education.
  • Continuing and expanding our work with our 241-member DTV transition coalition.

There are also several important actions the FCC can and should take to ensure a smooth transition.

  • First: have an effective FCC DTV call center. It must be robust and as prepared as possible to respond to number of consumer calls.
  • Second: have the new FCC DTV "czar" continue to participate actively with the DTV transition coalition. We appreciate that Gary Epstein has already attended the meeting and been actively engaged.
  • Third: coordinate DTV transition outreach efforts.
  • Fourth: maintain FCC flexibility for stations wanting or needing to make the switch to all-digital broadcasting before June 12.

Turning to the topic of this panel, NAB has committed to a comprehensive plan, as part of a greater coordinated effort, to see that consumer calls are properly directed and answered satisfactorily.

To reduce the aggregate number of calls, NAB has produced and will distribute a "nightlight" video in both English and Spanish that will answer viewer questions about the switch – such as -- what happened, how to hook up a converter box, how to scan and rescan for channels, how to properly position an antenna, and will include a check list of what viewers should do.

In January, NAB launched a new national phone service to help provide consumers with DTV information. NAB's interactive voice response (IVR) toll-free number provides viewers with information in English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. The system first identifies the way viewers receive television signals – cable, satellite, over-the-air – and then provides information about how to upgrade with a converter box or new TV set, or scan and rescan for channels.

NAB's call system has collected valuable data on callers' needs and DMA trends. The system also identifies zip code "hot spots" for television stations to focus their resources.

Moreover, NAB has designed and developed two call systems on the Verizon and AT&T networks that will provide redundancy and ample capacity during periods of heavy demand. NAB has also shared the design of these systems with the FCC and our partners.

NAB has also been working with a variety of stakeholders –especially with NCTA and the FCC – to coordinate a toll-free hotline with live operators to help handle viewer calls. I want to commend and acknowledge Kyle McSlarrow and the Board of the NCTA for their commitment and assistance. The live operators will assist those who call awaiting coupons, seeking general information, needing help with converter boxes, DTV sets and scanning, or looking for satellite/cable information.

NAB is also closely coordinating with state broadcast associations and local broadcasters to complement the national hotline. I would like to publicly thank Dennis Lyle, head of the Illinois Broadcaster Association and current President of the National Alliance of State Broadcasters (NASBA) and the state associations for their important efforts and contributions.

In markets with state association and broadcaster hotlines and call centers, NAB's DTV video will also direct viewers to call those numbers.

Television stations across the country are committing to in-station or market-wide local call centers where possible, to answer questions from viewers when local reception problems are the issue. For spotty or weak signals or other regional issues, the hotline would direct viewers to local stations and state association hotlines.

In the end, we have a comprehensive four-tier system – with an instructional nightlight video, an automated system, live neutral operators, from both industry and the FCC, and local help desks that will answer viewer calls.

We believe these plan components will address viewer concerns.

Again, thank you, Mr. Chairman for inviting me to participate in this hearing. We look forward to continuing our outstanding public/private partnership.

We cannot forget why we are here --the amazing benefits of free digital television viewers will receive: crystal clear pictures, phenomenal sound and more channels and services. And it's free.

Thank you.

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About NAB
The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. As the voice of more than 8,300 radio and television stations, NAB advances their interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at www.nab.org.