FCC's Martin discusses telecom, DTV matters before stepping down as Chairman

John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin does not see much chance of tightening program-access complaint rules or getting his free broadband proposal out the door before he exits as chairman in mid-January.

He is more sanguine about the prospects for the digital-television transition, though he concedes there will be challenges, including possibly running out of available money for DTV-to-analog converter boxes.

President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team has reportedly pushed for a more concentrated and coordinated call center program to field viewers’ calls around the time of the Feb. 17, 2009, switch. Martin says broadcasters will need to step up—NAB already has announced a call center plan—but that funds they have requested from the FCC would be subject to government contracting rules.

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In Washington State, free recycling available for old TVs, electronics

Phuong Le, Associated Press

Washington residents looking to safely get rid of old computers and TVs can do so for free when a new statewide recycling program begins next year.

A state law that starts Jan. 1 allows consumers to bring unwanted computer monitors, laptops and TVs to 200 permanent collection sites at no charge.

But those getting brand-new TVs and laptops for the holidays and itching to dump the old ones are urged not to rush the recycling sites immediately.

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In move to digital TV, confusion is in the air

Eric Taub, New York Times

The Federal Communications Commission sponsored a Nascar race car as part of its effort to inform Americans that on Feb. 18, television signals transmitted over the air will be transmitted solely in digital format. Old TV sets will no longer work.

It paid $350,000 to emblazon “The Digital TV Transition” and other phrases on a Ford driven by David Gilliland.

So how’s that going? In November, the car crashed during a Nascar race in Phoenix. It was the second crash in as many months.

And how is the digital TV transition going? According to critics, about as well, despite a major marketing campaign that includes nightly ads on TV.

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Markey worried about DTV preparations

Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Chair Ed Markey (D-MA) has fired off letters to FCC’s Kevin Martin and NTIA’s Meredith Attwell-Baker requesting a briefing on the state of affairs with the DTV transition and the converter box coupon program.

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Tech firms rally against pro-union card-check legislation

Julian Sanchez, Ars Technica

The Employee Free Choice Act—better known as "card check" legislation—is at the top of organized labor's wish list for the next Congress. But as card check moves from pipe dream to political possibility, wary tech firms are starting to rally in opposition.

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Seattle, other high-tech cities included in "at risk" list for DTV transition

Ian Lamont, Industry Standard

Seattle and San Francisco have been included in a list of seven urban centers with "at risk" communities for the February 2009 transition to digital television.

According to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, San Francisco/San Jose/Oakland and Seattle/Tacoma were included because they have relatively high numbers of residents who watch analog over-the-air television broadcasts and relatively low participation in the NTIA's TV Converter Box Coupon Program.

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Obama asks broadcasters to help consumers prepare for DTV transition

Kim McAvoy, TV Newsday

The Obama crowd is not waiting for Inauguration Day to begin managing the FCC-regulated media.

At a meeting in Washington last Friday, Obama transition team officials demanded that broadcasters and cable operators establish or help fund call centers to handle the anticipated flood of complaints and questions in the wake of the analog cut-off on Feb. 17, 2009.

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The fight over TV "white spaces"

Joshua Breitbart, Gotham Gazette

While tens of millions of Americans were waiting in line to vote on Nov. 4, the Federal Communications Commission was making its own historic decision. In a unanimous vote, the FCC approved public access to the unused part of the television band known as white spaces.

Analog television signals require a substantial buffer between channels to prevent interference (that's what channels 3, 6, 8, 10, and 12 were for in New York). With the transition to more efficient digital broadcasting in February, a lot of spectrum will become available. In

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The other Digital-TV transition

Marguerite Reardon, CNet

As a cable customer, I thought I was immune to any problems related to the upcoming digital-TV transition. But I recently discovered that cable's own migration to digital-TV transmission also has its share of headaches.

Imagine my surprise last month when I turned on the TV in my bedroom to watch a rerun of Sex and the City to discover that TBS, which had been part of my basic cable package, was no longer viewable. I clicked a few more channels and discovered that TNT was also missing. In fact, all that I am now left with on this particular TV are the basic national networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, along with the public access station C-SPAN and WNET, my local public television station.

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Comcast could receive fines over DTV-related pricing schemes

Kim Dixon, Reuters

Comcast Corp could be fined for its inadequate response to a Federal Communications Commission request for information on cable company policies as they switch to digital signals, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said on Tuesday.

The U.S. FCC sent letters earlier this month to about a dozen businesses -- mostly cable companies -- after receiving complaints that some are ratcheting up prices for programing packages or requiring customers to buy digital set-top boxes for fewer channels ahead of the digital switch on February 17.

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