MAB Joined by Key Stakeholders in Year Long DTV Campaign. 600,000 At-Risk Households Targeted For A Comprehensive Education and Assistance Program
The Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB) today announced a comprehensive yearlong campaign to educate and assist Michigan citizens for the end of analog television service, which is scheduled to occur on February 17, 2009. The federal government has mandated that local full power television stations will only broadcast in the newer digital format after that date.
“The transition to digital television or DTV is the most important development in TV since the advent of color television,” said Bart Brandmiller, MAB Chairman of the Board and Director of Sales for Clear Channel West Michigan.
“MAB and all of our local broadcasters in Michigan want to ensure that every Michigan citizen is informed about the digital transition, and will be equipped to receive a digital signal by this time next year,” said Diane Kniowski, MAB Vice Chairman/Chairman Elect and President and General Manager of WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids.
Michigan broadcasters are particularly concerned about an estimated 600,000 households in the state that do not have cable or satellite, and only receive their television services over-the-air. Many of the citizens in those households are low income, elderly, rural and disadvantaged, and risk not having any television service at all after February 17, 2009.
MAB announced a comprehensive education and assistance plan to inform and assist the at-risk population in the state. Part of that strategy involves the help of a diverse group of key stakeholders who have committed to distributing DTV information to their constituents and identifying individuals who are particularly vulnerable.
Stakeholders involved include:
Michigan Community Action Agency Association, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Department of Human Services, Michigan Department of Community Health, Michigan Office of Services to the Aging, Michigan Office of the Attorney General, Mich. Depart. of Environmental Quality, Boy Scouts of America, Chief Okemos Council, Mich. Association of Public Broadcasters
“The possible loss of television service to low income and disadvantaged people would make it extremely difficult for us to communicate important health messages and alerts to citizens,” said Janet Olszewski, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health.
The Michigan Community Action Agency Association (MCAAA) and its 30-affiliate members in the state have committed to working with low-income individuals and families served through its various assistance programs. MCAAA will provide DTV transition information to its clients, and will also work with local Boy Scout troops to find community and civic groups to help install television converter boxes for citizens most in need of help. The converter boxes will allow a television to continue to receive a signal after the digital transition is completed.
“MCAAA is concerned because we know that many of the at-risk citizens depend on television for emergency information, news and weather,” said James Crisp, MCAAA Executive Director. “Losing television service would cost those families their most important connection to their communities.”
“We’re hoping that all Michigan citizens would look around their families and neighborhood to identify people they know who may need assistance in paying for and installing converter boxes and antennas, said MAB President and CEO Karole White. “There is no government funding available to help our needy citizens with the DTV transition, so in many cases it has to come down to neighbors helping neighbors.”
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox expressed concern about the potential for consumer fraud and issued a strong warning for potential con artists who see an opportunity to make a fast buck off unsuspecting citizens.
“I am committed to protecting Michigan citizens from scams,” said Cox. “Citizens who are concerned that they were victims of a fraud should contact my Consumer Protection Division immediately. Together, we can keep citizens safe and fight the scam artists trying to make a fast buck.”
The MAB news conference also served as the debut of new public service announcements recorded by legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell. The announcements inform Michigan citizens about the DTV transition, and will air on every Michigan radio and television station in the state over the next several months.
“The transition to digital television is of vital importance to every Michigan citizen,” said Harwell. “As a senior citizen myself, I am particularly aware of the importance television plays in the lives of my fellow seniors. Thank you to the MAB and all of the stakeholders here today for your commitment to this important project.”
In addition to public service announcements, Michigan television stations have taken the unprecedented step of agreeing to simultaneously air a one-minute consumer awareness minute about the DTV transition. The consumer awareness minute airs Wednesday, February 20 at 7:58-7:59 p.m.
“The commitment to the simultaneous airing of the consumer awareness minute, or road blocking, during this high viewer ship period shows the depth of the commitment Michigan broadcasters have to the DTV transition,” said White.
The public service announcements and consumer awareness minute encourage citizens to obtain more information about the DTV transition from a special web site the MAB has established. The web site address is www.michigandtv.com.