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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 8, 2009 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT

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during the program we will hear from fcc, legislator, a television broadcaster and activist group. >> well, a decade after it all began the nation is ready to transition to digital tv. and this week on "the communicators" we will talk with several people involved in the process and find out what is going to have been less than a week away. we are joined by bill lake, the digital television transition coordinator at the fcc. mr. flake, on june 12th, but it's going to happen on that day and at what time? >> what happens is analog television, the full power stations will end. many people think digital transmission will begin but the digital signals are already out there and many people are already enjoying them. but you will no longer have analog signal and that means people who are not ready to receive the digital signals will use television reception.
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>> what time is it going to happen? >> we gave the stations their choice and they had to report to us, and there will be about 150 stations within the six -- midnight to 6:00 a.m., another equal amount between 6 a.m. and noon and then noon and 6 p.m. and then a large bulk of stations will go between 6 p.m. and midnight. >> on june 12th. how many households do you expect not to be ready for this transition? >> the latest estimate is about 3 million which cuts in half the number who were not ready at the end of january, the beginning of february when the extension was made of the transition date. >> so in this last week before the transition happens, what is the fcc giving? >> we have a very concentrated outreach effort, about 250 people of our ellen in the field going to churches, shopping malls everywhere they can to reach out to people to tell them the messages, it's time to act
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and also to help them to know what to do to act. >> all the public service announcements from the cable companies have said if you have cable or if you have fios or satellite tv or okay. is that 100% guarantee? >> yes, there are some people that have received satellite, 20% receive their local stations over the air and if you are one of those and get your local stations over an antenna you need to prepare because those stations over the air will not be analog anymore. but the great bulk of the satellite people have nothing to do and that is also true of cable. >> we have facts and figures from the national communications agency and we want to have to explain a little bit. so far, 32 million approved households have received or have transitioned. what does that mean, approved households? >> it means they have applied for a coupon to the commerce
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department and that application has been approved. that means that once it is approved day are mailed coupons in the mail and will receive them in about nine or ten days. >> and this is the actual coupon people will receive, it's just like a credit card. >> it looks like a credit card only usable ones and is good for $40 so when you buy a converter box you take that and it's used essentially as credit for $40. >> so 32 million times $40? >> a household is entitled to two coupons so the number isn't twice that nearly twice that. >> those are the people who've applied. do people who have cable-tv or satellite tv, do they need to apply? >> no. i take that back, if you have cable and one row of your home for example but another tv in the kitchen or the den and that receives programming over the air you need to prepare for whenever set receives programming over the air.
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>> some 58 million coupons have been mailed. 3 million have been redeemed. so what's going to happen? are there still 18 million coupons out there? >> that's a question we will see the answer to. the redemption rate has always been 50% or less and that might mean people are procrastinating. it might also mean some people who applied for coupons didn't really need them. we've been encouraging people who have coupons that don't need them to donate them to people who either are not qualified technically to receive them because they live in example in a room in her house or somebody that isn't ready but we don't know how many will be redeemed in the last days. >> 21 million coupons have expired according to the national telecommunications agency. how long are these good four? 90 days under the law. some people didn't realize -- >> from when they are mailed? >> yes, mailed. what happens is if they do expire you can apply for a new
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one. and people should realize the coupon program doesn't end june 12th. coupon applications will be accepted through july 31st and that means they can be mailed roughly then and there will be good in to good and to november. >> $1.4 billion in funds committed. but does that mean? is that what has been spent on the transition so far? >> yes and most of that is to the coupons it was also under the stimulus bill, about $90 million made available for this outreach effort we are engaged in all along with commerce department. >> 346 million in funds available. does that mean toward coupons for people that haven't converted? >> yes. >> this is one of the converter boxes and this is what you buy with the coupons. so if you have atv and receive this you just hope this up to the tv. how easy is this?
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>> it's quite easy for someone who we isn't, doesn't have a psychological block and is comfortable with technology. there are very few places on the back to plug a cable and as you will see it is a simple matter of plugging your antenna in one place on the box and plugging the box into the tv set but there's a lot of people who are not comfortable and one of the things we've been doing is offering to send people into the homes of people who are not comfortable hooking up the box and they can have a box installed for free. >> how many calls have you gotten to hook up the box? >> the are rolling in daily so we don't have an exact but tens of thousands and we are prepared to have as many as 200,000 free installs for the people that need them if the demand is there. >> said the fcc also has call centers. what's happening at the centers? >> we have trained the agents to answer pretty much every possible question about the transition from where do i get a coupon to why don't i receive my favorite station anymore.
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what is scanning? this is something that has to be done with a digital television or converter box, and these agents are standing by to answer all of these questions for the consumers and the call number is 1-888-call-fcc. we will have this number colin 24 hours a day in the last few days before and after june 12th to riggins >> one of the programs that offered partially is called the night light surface. what is that and why is it not being offered nationwide? >> the law requires analog broadcasting and on june 12th. period. but it also allowed stations if they wanted to continue a and amol will signal that would simply be public safety information and information about the dtv transition. the problem is if someone wakes up and sees the screen has gone blank they won't see a message on the screen what number to call at the fcc for example so a station can do this might light surface which is to continue to broadcast and walk just to
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provide the basic information. it's a voluntary program. we've encouraged stations to do it and we would love to see at least one station in every major market do it but it is voluntary. >> we also talked with joe barton, former chairman of the energy commerce committee and now ranking republican member on the committee and has been a critic of the extension from january, i'm sorry, february until now, june, and we talked with him a little bit about the dtv transition. >> are we more prepared now for the digital transition demint feb? >> not really. to the extent we are going to be totally prepared we were prepared then and we will be about as prepared now. statistically, i think we are 1.7% more prepared now than we were back in february which means instead of about 97% we are going to be about 98.9%.
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but there are going to be a couple% of the population now matter what time we put the date they are going to wake up on the day of the transition and say we've gone all digital today. so i think it should have happened back in february. the president's father wise so they put off for 90 days. the transition date is coming up in june in a couple of weeks and almost everybody in the country will be totally ready but there will be a couple percentage points which translates to two or 3 million tv sets that are not ready to go. >> your district is both urban and rural. what is the status of your district? >> well, when i go out and talk about it, most people are cognizant of it and ready to go. statistically, the dallas-fort worth area is one of the more unprepared. i think there is still around 4.5% according to nielsen and
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the fcc that are not ready but i think in the greatest texas tradition they are waiting until the last moment and the day before they will go out and get their converter box and they will be okay the day off. >> as a member of congress or all members of congress do you think you will bear the brunt if people are not prepared and their tvs to all work on june 12? >> i don't think there will be much brought to bear by was the chairman when we put it in place and i am prowled we put a hard date and the date is already a right to and while it slipped a little bit it hasn't slipped all that much and i think the country will be much better off once we get through the transition. there will be a lot of spectrum that goes to the first responders and new telecommunication technologies and of course your picture will be sharper, brighter, the spectrum that is used for over the air television will be much better utilized.
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>> speaking of that on used spectrum now what's going to happen? do you foresee hearings? when will the spectrum be used? >> a lot of it has already been spoken for in some of the new systems, some of the new networks that were ready to go back in february will finally kick off here in mid june. to the extent there is spectrum that hasn't been spoken for i would assume the fcc will hold hearings and eventually come before congress and will probably do another option or something like that. >> finally, congressman barton dtc hearings on the transition, how and when? >> i think so. the chairman waxman and markey and before them, chairman belcher and chairman dingell have already held a lot hearings on the transition, so i would think sometime this fall there
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will be more and once it is a reality the fcc commissioners will come forward and stakeholders in the country. there is not calling to be this huge problem though. i mean half the country has already gone digital and you haven't heard any great outcries in those markets admittedly there was small lamarca it's the durham and then take the station market in my state. things worked fine so the usual people that wait until the last moment like me. i still haven't gotten my converter boxes but i know i have got to weeks to do it. we will wake up and get it done and the country will move forward. >> bill lake, we do like to respond to? >> some people will not be ready regard was the date. some people don't get their taxes filed on time.
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another thing i think it was good for the congress to set a hard date so people know when this is going to have been. and also the transition itself is a good thing. digital television will be good for tv viewers and spectrum that's released for other purposes will go to good purpose is such as public safety. but i don't agree what wasn't a good idea to extend the date and what we found was that there was a substantial number of people about 6% of the homes were already because there hadn't been sufficient effort getting them ready and we think we have made a dent in that and roughly cut it in half. in the dallas-fort worth market part of which is in the congressman's district the on ready percentage has gone from about 10% in january to about 6% now and that reflects in part it is a very diverse district. one thing we found is the homes that are not ready are
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disproportionately in areas of vulnerable populations. the elderly, low-income families, minorities, families whose first language is not english they are the hardest to reach and what we have been concentrating on outreach efforts on those groups and i think with each of those groups we've made substantial progress since the during. >> so the call centers would be bilingual? >> yes, we have bilingual agents and are able to refer calls to a translator service where they can handle 100 languages so if we get calls in hungary and we can handle them. >> the congressman said half the nation has gone digital and hasn't been problems. >> we think that is a good thing because the tidal wave on june 12th will be that much smaller but they tend to be small workstations and smaller communities. by our estimate 15% of the population has been substantially affected by the transition so far so there is no question what remains for june 12th will be the bigger waves and we are trying to
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prepare so people who haven't already prepared will know what to do. >> we went to one of the stations that is a public station here in washington, d.c., weta. >> kevin harris, weta, what happens june 12th? >> june 12th we transition. june 12 at noon we go to the for digital channels and we are excited about it. it's a about time to be to go to tv channel six which is more adult public television programming and some kids. we do 24/7 kids on weta kids and we do how to, how to cook, how to clean, how to fix a house and then of course we have the gorgeous pictures, public television is known for what is now in high definition. >> why didn't the station make
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the jump in february? [laughter] >> you have to talk to the folks on the hill that c-span talks to a lot. we were ready to make the jump frankly two years ago. we made a lot of investment. we started to years ago creating a work for digital channels. we've been broadcasting 24/7 on all of our digital channels since feb first so we have been ready to go. our word thing because we do broadcast to all of the citizens and also to the hill is to show them how it can work especially for public-service broadcaster, local public-service broadcaster so we have been ready to go but of course as you know, the fcc, obama and everyone wanted to wait until june 12th so we thought we would take as long as necessary to inform the public of the change. >> as far as your viewers how informed do you think they are?
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>> you know, we've been broadcasting digital forever. we've been doing all of the sponsor for sec times ten telling everyone what the need to do to get ready. now, we are public television, we have an older audience and this is a huge change. a lot of people that watch c-span and public television have been doing the same thing for 50 years. they haven't realized this picture they have gotten isn't the best picture and sell they are trillion to get ready and get the new equipment but they are going to have to deal with what we call the cliff effect which is huge and digital. when people talk about bonding a new set and beautiful picture what they don't talk about is the cliff of fact and when i grew up we had a great reception off the rabbit ears but it
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probably wasn't perfect reception but we could still get the analog signal. in digital you either get the signal or you don't. >> , june 12th you think people will be calling saying what happened? >> i keep saying it's like the arizona affect. there is no snow. you either get it or you don't. some people will but our folks and fcc have been very great. the commercial stations in the area and around the country have been great informing people about the switch, and so i think there will be last-minute folks who haven't bought the right equipment or are not on cable or digital or satellite. but for the most part, i think people will be ready for june 12th at least i'm hoping. >> how much did it cost weta to get ready and do you get government assistance? >> it costs a lot of money, you know? some people keep saying it's like going to color from black
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and white. well, sort of kind of. from the station planned it has been like going color. we had to change master control which is controlled central for television station. we actually have to change the transmitter, the big tower. we had to get a big tower and we had to get a new master control and all that so it costs millions of dollars. a lot of people on the street would say but your public television. yeah, we don't make the millions of dollars off of news and other commercials the other stations do. but to broadcast public-service programming is the same cost as to broadcast, you know, "seinfeld" repeats at 7:30. >> did you get assistance from the government? >> we did. they have been great for broadcasters like weta. a lot of grants, 50 per cent
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which means we have to raise the other 50% what we call capital for the equipment and that sort of thing so we had to redo the studio and redo everything. that has been so helpful. and, you know, individuals have helped support and that other 50%. so the costs a lot of money. the good news is just like with c-span when a cable went digital we are now just weta tv 26, we have for services and our mission, period, education programming to as many as possible. >> bill lake, he talked about how much money the corporation had spent on the spigot how much private money and public money has been spent so far? >> it's been the stations they do have to invest in new equipment and it's come to a rough time in the country. many commercial stations are
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strapped. i don't have a total amount but it's been an expensive transition. one thing i would echo it is worthwhile. we've been concentrating the last few weeks about avoiding disruptions which is the principal short-term concern but i want to remind everyone the digital transmission is good for the country. television will be better even if you don't have high definition set you have better picture, sound and more stations. flexible multi casting he referred to many stations broadcasting just one set of programs will now be broadcasting four or five or more so someone who receives television over the air will be receiving more programming than before. i would also point out in addition to freeing up spectrum for other uses, going digital is important in this digital age. most of the world has gone digital now. we know what benefits it came with us when cellular telephones went digital.
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there are all sorts of things phones can do they couldn't do when they were analog and wouldn't make sense for broadcasting to be an analog of ireland in a digital world, so we will come out of this with a digital broadcasting and we will be one of the first to achieve the transition and this will be an area we can lead the world doing the kind of things that will be possible with digital television that were not possible with daniloff. >> i know you are a communications lawyer who came on for this specifically in march of 2009 and you were the digital transition coordinator at the f.c.c. but do you know what is going to happen right away? june 13th is the auctioned off spectrum going to be used immediately? >> much of the spectrum has been auctioned and bought by wireless companies and many are prepared to put the spectrum in use quickly. there's an additional part held back for public safety and the commission hasn't actually put it to use yet so it might take a year or two before that is
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deployed but it is there to help nationwide public safety spectrum. >> mr. harris of weta also talked of the class of fact. >> there will be reception issues and we want everyone to understand it isn't a matter of buying your converter box and making sure you will have a good reception. the digital signals will travel differently from the old analog signals and one thing we want everyone to remember is more stations will gain viewers than will lose them and more of the worst will gain programming than would lose it that there will be people who may lose their favorite station at least temporarily because of these reception issues and one of the things we are doing is we have engineers standing by who will be available around the clock to field reception issues as they come and help the broadcaster deal with them. >> erica swanson is joining with leadership conference on civil
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rights and she is the digital tv coordinator. ms. swanson, why is this considered a civil rights issue? >> first thank you. it's a pleasure to be with you on "the communicators." for many americans this is one of the first times we are feeling for the impact of decisions made in washington, d.c. about the communications policy and impact they have on our lives. this is an issue coming to people's living rooms and television sets so it is an important issue coming from washington, d.c. affecting our real lives and it's a civil rights issue a number of reasons. critically it is about access. many enjoy watching "american idol" or "dancing with the stars" but of course it is about more than that, so many american households rely on television as a primary news source and source for information about whether emergency broadcast and what is going on in their community so it is a critical way to stay connected and it's important we
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maintain that access to free over the air television. >> what was your message when you testified last week at the last hearing? >> our message is as we get closer to june 12th we are days away there's a number of critical things consumers and viewers need to do and to do now. second there's a number of things people once they are prepared can help their neighbors and third there are a number of changes that will take place after june 12th that might mean they are still considerable work to do. we don't notice ackley what is going to happen june 12th and 13th, with the descriptions will be and what the major challenges will be. we can predict many but in many ways we are learning as we go. this is the first should delete could digital transmission obviously and we know we have come a considerable distance since february 17th. the extension of the transition deadline gave more time to prepare these laudable communities but we know they're
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likely to be hundreds of thousands of americans left behind on june 12th. >> ms. swanson, you referred to changes after june 12 that would be happening. what do you mean? >> there's a number of things that will happen after the 12th. we know many broadcasters will not be broadcasting at full strength on or by the 12th and in the days and weeks and sometimes months after broadcasters will be changing the location on the tower which they senter the broadcast. we know some broadcasters are sitting of translators or transmitters to boost signal strength and in the and that is a good things and means the reach further and more households will be able to reach or receive the signals but we don't yet know the full strength of each of the broadcasts in all the markets will be. we also don't know what the real world impact of interference is going to be. there are challenges people are facing as they installed their converter box and antennas with
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interference. sometimes it's the building of a living, concrete building and sometimes it is a large tree that might sit in front of your house and might be between the broadcast station and where your antenna is set up but we know there will be variations the first time a snowstorm hits the twin cities what's going to happen to people's broadcast television digital signals on that day. what's going to happen when there's a hurricane or thunderstorms that hit areas of the gulf coast. what's going to happen to those signals. we also don't know what is going to happen with low-power television. low-power television broadcasters are not required to transition and may not a number of months or years. that will have consequences specially on households on small community broadcast especially those in languages other than english and finally well we don't know is who all is going to be impacted by the transition. we know right now if you are watching television on an older tv not connected to cable or
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satellite you need to have a converter box but we also know cable and satellite subscribers who might be making decisions cutting the service. >> bill lake is with us also and i'm going to let him comment on some things you have said. >> i agree that, peter, this is a civil rights issue or social issue to some extent how about 11 or 12% of american homes watched television over the air and they are disproportionately among the low-income homes and minority homes and so forth and one of the reasons we tried hard to have no one left behind for lack of effort on our part is it's important these people not lose what is their principal connection to the outside world, news, public defense, safety messages as well as entertainment so it is important not to have a portion cut off from the mainstream of the american public. >> eric thus once a are you pleased with the fcc response to
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the transition? >> we can tell you what we have seen in the recent weeks has begun to make a difference. we've seen the fcc, telecommunication administration make an investment supporting the small community organizations being called upon in local communities to do this work and that makes a difference. there is the fcc call center as mr. lake mentioned, 1-888-call-fcc. it is a good resource complementary to that or the hundreds and hundreds of local resources and cities and communities across the country. >> iraq a swanson is with leadership conference on civil rights and their web site, bill lake, from all question, what would you do differently that we didn't do if you could do it again? >> i think we would have started the concentrated outreach efforts we are engaged in now well before february and i think if we had we would be in better shin


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