Jan 8, 2009

NTIA opposes DTV date move

Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration insists the digital transition can and should occur Feb. 17 as planned. Its Jan. 8 statement quoting Meredith Attwell Baker, acting NTIA head, appears to place at least some of the blame for the coupon shortage on consumers and Congress: "Since the program began in January 2008, NTIA has urged households to apply for coupons as soon as possible, so they can be fully prepared by February 17, 2009. We have been communicating with Congress throughout the Program and advised as early as November 6 that coupon demand may hit the $1.34 billion obligation limit by mid-January.”

Obama team, Rockefeller back DTV delay

John Podesta, transition team co-chair for President-elect Barack Obama, has delivered a letter to Congress advising the DTV transition be put off. Congress had set Feb. 17, so another law would need to pass to change the date. In his letter, Podesta calls government funding for the DTV converter box coupon program as well as educational efforts for consumers "woefully inadequate." Transition officials estimate more than 5 million "unhonored requests" for the coupons by February. Podesta adds that Obama will include resources for assistance to viewers in the economic recovery package. In a statement Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, says he supports "delaying the current date ... until we can do it right."

Pubcasting fan Markey shifts posts

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Edward Markey, a longtime supporter of pubcasting, is shifting between subcommittees of the powerful House Energy and Commerce committee. He's vacating his chair of Communications, Technology and the Internet to head up Energy and Environment. Replacing him will be Virgina Rep. Rick Boucher, an advocate for President-elect Barack Obama's government funding for rural broadband. Boucher is currently sponsoring a bill to provide government subsidies for rooftop antennas to help viewers through the DTV transition.

PBS unveils new shows, will not unveil Lear's "full monty"

PBS announced three new shows at the Television Critics Association press tour yesterday. Ken Burns' film The Tenth Inning picks up where his 1994 Baseball left off and will air in Spring 2010. The producers of Carrier will bring another behind-the-scenes reality series to pubTV next year: Circus, which follows the Big Apple Circus around the country. Dinosaur Train, a new science show for preschoolers from The Jim Henson Company, follows the adventures of Buddy, a preschool-aged Tyrannosaurus Rex, and his family of Pteranodons. In other news, PBS said it will alter its filmed production of Ian McKellan's King Lear on Great Performances so the King's manhood is hidden from view. How PBS would handle the nudity was one of the critics' favorite topics at last year's summer press tour.