FCC to make stations show switch ads

The FCC may approve a plan that would require broadcast-station owners to run at least four 30-second public-service ads a day about the digital transition. That number would increase to as many as 12 ads a day on each station as the February 2009 deadline approaches.

Broadcasters, who object to the idea of donating so much valuable airtime to the ad effort, recently proposed an alternative plan that would have local stations voluntarily air at least a dozen public-service announcements a week, as well as two separate ads a week on each of the Big Four and Spanish-language networks. The proposal appears to be gaining support among the FCC’s Republican members, although Martin and the FCC’s two Democratic commissioners have so far supported the plan requiring more-frequent ads.

Earlier this month, US residents could begin applying for two $40 coupons to help pay for converter boxes, which are expected to sell for about $50 to $70 each. So far, the number of requests for the coupons – more than two million – represents less than 15 per cent of the estimated number of households that rely on traditional broadcasts. Federal officials got less than $10 million to publicize the program. Lawmakers said they expected the private sector to take the lead in publicizing the change.

Last year, broadcasters announced they would commit almost $700 million of airtime to public-service announcements devoted to explaining the digital transition.

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