U.S. broadcasters promised on Monday to air more than $327 million worth of television spots as part of a broad campaign to alert consumers about the approaching switch-over to digital television.
The major television networks, as well as 95 station-owning broadcast companies, pledged to run the ads as part of a $697 million campaign designed to keep viewers from being caught off guard when broadcasters switch to digital signals by February 17, 2009.
The television spots, including some to be aired during prime time, warn viewers that older, analog televisions will not work after the switch-over and steer them towards possible solutions.
Broadcasters are required to switch to digital signals from analog by February 17, 2009. If owners of analog televisions do not get a converter box, subscribe to satellite or digital cable, or replace their TV with a digital television by that date, they will not be able to watch television.
The federal government plans to subsidize the cost of buying a digital-analog converter box by offering $40 discount coupons to anyone who owns an analog television.
Some lawmakers in Congress and members of the Federal Communications Commission have expressed concern about whether the public will be prepared for the transition to digital television, particularly minorities and residents in poor and rural areas.
The campaign, announced by the National Association of Broadcasters, will also include repeated reminders on local news stations, as well as public relations and other educational programs designed to raise public awareness of about the switch-over.
(Reporting by Peter Kaplan)