With the digital transition getting nearer, and millions of viewers still not prepared, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided to hone its education program by visiting more than 100 U.S. markets, and to create a speakers bureau for those who request the presence of experts.

All five FCC commissioners and other Commission staff have agreed to visit about 100 markets in person to help get the word out. The cities are those that have more than 100,000 households, or at least 15 percent of the households rely solely on over-the-air signals for television.

At each stop, there will be a public event, such as a town hall meeting, workshop or roundtable with an FCC commissioner to highlight the digital transition and be available to local press.

The FCC was joined by representatives from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Consumer Electronics Retailer Coalition, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) for the announcement.

Cities to be visited first include Anchorage and Fairbanks, Ark.; Baltimore; San Francisco; Austin, Texas; Houston; Memphis, Tenn.; New York; Boise, Idaho; four of the largest cities in Montana; and three in Washington State.

As for the speakers bureau, the Commission will provide speakers, without cost, to any group requesting one. To request a speaker, go to the FCC’s DTV Web site and click on “Request a Speaker.”

The FCC also announced that beginning at 12 noon on Sept. 8, five broadcasting stations in testbed-city Wilmington will transmit their commercial programming only on digital channels. 

The five are WWAY (ABC), WSFX-TV (FOX), WECT (NBC), WILM-LP (CBS) and W51CW (Trinity Broadcasting).

Because these stations are transitioning to digital before the official cutoff date of Feb. 17, they have the ability to continue to use their analog spectrum to broadcast the following message:

“At 12 noon on September 8, 2008, commercial television stations in Wilmington, North Carolina, began to broadcast programming exclusively in a digital format.

“If you are viewing this message, this television set has not yet been upgraded to digital.

“To receive your television signals, upgrade to digital now with a converter box, a new TV set with a digital (ATSC) tuner, or by subscribing to a pay service like cable or satellite.”

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