"DTV: Get It!"

Better late than never. Years after mandating a changeover from analog to digital television broadcasting, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched a campaign to inform consumers about the benefits of the new format.

In partnership with the Consumer Electronics Association (CE) and various retailers, the FCC's "DTV: Get It!" campaign is intended to take the transition to the next level by getting consumers excited about its potential for them. The move follows years of often-slow progress in getting an assortment of industries—production companies, broadcasters, cable providers, satellite services, and electronics manufacturers—on the same page about digital TV.

Like most new technologies, DTV began as an elitist early-adopter phenomenon. But now there is an acceptable amount of DTV programming available—several hours daily from most sources—and prices for DTV receivers have dropped to the point where purchases are possible for most middle class viewers. Making them aware of the technology is the next step in easing DTV into place as the television standard of the 21st century. That's the reasoning behind the FCC new consumer education website and a toll-free DTV help line, 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).

Both service provide basic information about programming, equipment, and technical specifications, including explanations of something that will undoubtedly confuse many consumers: the existence of parallel standards for digital broadcasting (Standard Definition, Extended Definition, and High Definition—or SDTV, EDTV, and HDTV, respectively).

"The FCC felt the need to jump in and provide some leadership," said agency chairman Michael Powell in announcing the "Get It!" campaign. Critics have long complained that the FCC failed to take a strong leadership role in pushing the DTV changeover, instead taking a laissez faire attitude that "market forces" would achieve the same goal without governmental intervention. Strong direction from the top may promote a faster transition, one that was originally envisioned to be complete by the end of 2006, but is now projected to take at least until 2009.