The Federal Communications Commission will back off from plans to force TV stations to air more advertisements about the upcoming transition to digital TV next year, according to several news reports.
The commission supposedly backed down from its decision amid criticism from the industry that feared airing more advertisements would displace higher- aid advertisements during prime-time viewing hours, The Wall Street Journal reported.
As of Feb. 17, 2009, Broadcasters will stop sending analog signals and move to all-digital programming. After that, TV watchers who rely on antennas to receive over-the-air broadcasts will need a special converter box.
The FCC is expected to change to a more flexible plan that will give broadcasters more leeway in selecting which ads to air and when. The Journal said the FCC could make the announcement as soon as today.
Under a previous plan, the FCC proposed to order broadcasters and cable operators were asked to increase the number of advertisements about the digital transition to at least four 30-second public-service ads a day. This number was set to increase to as much as 12 ads a day on each station as the February deadline approached.
According to Nielsen Media Research, around 13 million U.S. households would be affected as they rely on free broadcast television and are not cable subscribers.
The TV used will also affects the digital transition as TVs made after March 2007 have digital tuners built-in, while TVs made before then don't. This means that some viewers will have to either buy a new TV or get a digital-tuner box, which will be subsidized by the government. The government has already began offering vouchers to help people buy these converter boxes.
However, most people who subscribe to cable or satellite won't have to worry about the transition, regardless of when their TV was made. This is because their set-top boxes will do the conversion automatically. So for the most part, the only people left affected are ones who still use the rabbit-eared antenna to watch TV.