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FCC Pushes Online For Digital TV

Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell unveiled an online effort Monday to help consumers better understand the digital transition.

The site includes a shoppers' guide, FAQs, and a link to another online HDTV effort, the industry-backed portal created by Decisionmark that will bring up available HDTV programming in a particular market, linked to zip code.

Www.dtv.gov is part of a general consumer-focused push for DTV by the FCC. Powell says that effort will also include Powell's halftime appearance on Monday Night Football being interviewed about digital TV.

The FCC has a plan to speed the transition to DTV by defining a set as receiving digital when it can receive a signal converted to analog. Part of that plan is the potential to subsidize the conversion of a primary in the homes of those who can't afford the technology to convert that digital signal for use on their existing analog sets.

Powell said that he might support a subsidy for additional sets in those homes, though he added that he does not support the idea of defining success as every TV in every home DTV-ready. If that is the measure, he said, "let's be honest with ourselves, the transition will take 50 years."

Powell said it was possible that the FCC would decide a number of key DTV transition issues by year's end, including multicasting must-carry, public interest obligations, and just how a DTV-ready house is to be defined. According to statues, when 85 percent of the TV homes in a market can receive a DTV signal, the FCC can begin reclaiming spectrum for auction.

There were a dozen of so public activists outside the FCC headquarters Monday, complaining that the FCC press conference/panel session on HDTV was simply an effort to sell TV sets. When asked to respond to that complaint, Powell said that it was not an attempt to sell sets, but to give consumers the information to buy new sets in a transition mandated by the government.

He said the public interest issues were being addressed in pending FCC rule-making, but that this was a consumer-targeted effort.

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