Skip to content


Legislation Will Fill Large Gaps in Government & Industry Planning

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, today introduced the Preparing America's Seniors for the Digital Television Transition Act of 2007. On February 17, 2009, television stations will cease broadcasting their analog signals, at which point analog televisions will stop working unless they are connected to a converter, cable or satellite.  First and foremost, the bill would formalize a partnership between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the Administration on Aging (AoA) with specific reporting requirements. The purpose of the partnership would be to coordinate with a diverse advisory board of stakeholders-representing broadcasters, aging advocates, disability groups, rural Americans, and state and local governments-to craft a national consumer education campaign targeting older individuals who depend on analog TV.
"Seniors are particularly vulnerable to slipping through the cracks of the transition. Not only are they more likely to rely on free over-the-air analog TV signals, but for many seniors television is their only link to the outside world," said Chairman Kohl. "Without adequate planning and coordination, seniors will be left in the dark."
This legislation would establish a grant program to support non-profits and state and local government agencies, such as area agencies on aging, as they help seniors and other vulnerable populations navigate the transition and the coupon program, which was created by NTIA to help subsidize the cost of a converter box for analog televisions. The legislation also modifies the coupon program to ensure that households relying solely on over-the-air television sets are prioritized and that residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities are eligible to participate. Additionally, the bill would set requirements for the broadcasting industry, electronic manufacturers, and electronic retailers which include mandatory public service announcements; placement of easily identifiable labels on coupon-eligible converter boxes; and the maintenance of toll-free phone lines to help individuals with converter box installation. Finally, the legislation would set specific reporting requirements for both the NTIA and FCC in order to monitor the overall progress of the transition and the implementation of the coupon program. 
The bill is being introduced in response to a hearing held by the Aging Committee on September 19, entitled " Preparing for the Digital Television Transition: Will Seniors Be Left in the Dark? " Testimony from Federal Communications Commissioner John Adelstein and Mark Goldstein, Director of Physical Infrastructure Issues at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), corroborated the results of an Aging Committee investigation that found the federal government is drastically unprepared to educate America's seniors about the transition, set to take place February 17, 2009. The hearing uncovered several concerns, including the lack of coordination between government agencies; an over reliance on competing private sector efforts; the potential for fraud, abuse, and confusion with respect to the government's coupon-program; and finally, that non-profit organizations require additional resources to sufficiently assist seniors with navigating the transition. 
Chairman Kohl's bill has received support from AARP, the Association for Public Television Stations (APTS), the National Association of State Units on Aging, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs, and the Meals on Wheels Association of America. AARP Board Member Nelda Barnett lauded Chairman Kohl's bill at the September 19 hearing, stating that "AARP appreciates the Committee's focus on the impact of this transition on older Americans and welcomes the legislation the Chairman has drafted to ease these burdens. "
A study conducted by APTS determined that 61 percent of over-the-air households have "no idea" the DTV transition is taking place. A later study commissioned by APTS found that Americans aged 65 and older are consistently more likely to receive television signals via an over-the-air antenna than younger Americans, and are therefore less prepared to transition from analog to digital-only television. The study concluded that seniors should receive unique attention in efforts to educate the public about the impending DTV transition. 
#    #   #
ASSOCIATED PRESS: "GAO: No Direction in Digital Transition" - September 19, 2007
WASHINGTON POST: "The Night the TVs Go Out" - September 29, 2007