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Possible DTV Delay Affects Radio

FCC in disarray over DTV; radio hanging? 

The Obama transition team lobbed its DTV delay bombshell during CES. What’s the upshot for radio issues in the meantime?

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein confirmed to me that the agency’s focus is very much on DTV for the near term. That may not be much of an issue for the FM IBOC power increase, since several of the parties involved now are planning to conduct additional tests and plan to bring a concerted push to the FCC this summer. That’s also how long they think it will take the new commission to get settled and move ahead on issues.

If that guesstimated timeline for the commission to settle in holds — and this was before talk of a delay in the DTV transition — it’s not as good for the other pending radio issues: NCE spectrum users, AMs on FM translators and efforts by radio stations that want to increase their power once TV Channel 6 is largely vacated.

Radio stations have been airing PSAs about the DTV transition. I learned that ham radio groups are helping consumers with their DTV antenna coverage issues — helping consumers choose the right antenna and knowing more about the signal coverage, encouraged to do so by the American Radio Relay League.

In a regulatory session, Democrat Adelstein and his GOP counterpart Robert McDowell spelled out what they consider misteps between the FCC and NTIA. There was no one person or agency in charge of the DTV transition, they said, leading up to the, shall we say, chaos that’s ensuing over the converter box coupon program.

Adesltein pointed to several examples of the administration’s “mismangement” of the transition. “It’s unbelievable the lack of coordination that took place and [there ’s] not enough resources on the ground.”

“There’s plenty of blame to go around,” McDowell said, starting with the statute which specified that NTIA was in charge of the coupon program and the FCC “in charge of the rest.” From the FCC’s perspective, the call center to help consumers is way behind, only getting its funding this summer. Contracting for staffing the center has taken longer than expected.

The political fallout? If the transition happens on time, you can blame the Bush administration for problems, observers told me; if it’s delayed, “Now, it’s Obama’s problem.”