Analog-Shutoff Test Hits a Nerve
The "soft test" was a text warning lasting a few minutes, broadcast three times throughout the day in more than 125 TV markets, including at least one station in each of the top 30 markets. Viewers were urged to call 1-800-CALL-FCC to request assistance--and they did, 55,000 of them, well over the normal daily call volume of 15,000 in recent months.
The largest number of calls for help broken down by city came from Chicago (1310) followed by New York (1277) and Dallas-Ft. Worth (764). Broken down by state, the most calls came from California (8090), Texas (7735), and Illinois (4849).
What did they ask about? The figures varied from city to city, so to use Chicago as an example: 44 percent wanted to know more about the federal government's $40 subsidy coupons for the purchase of set-top boxes that would translate the new digital signals into an analog format for old analog TV sets, 17 percent wanted to talk about reception issues in their area, 14 percent wanted instruction on installing the set-top box, 7 percent were aware of the transition but had not acted, 7 percent had miscellaneous questions, and 1 percent had other problems, many of them, oddly, relating to satellite service.
Observed acting FCC chair Michael Copps: "This soft test did exactly what it was supposed to do. It was a wake-up call for consumers who are unprepared, alerting them to the fact that they need to take the necessary steps before the June 12 DTV transition."