DTV Distractions

At their gathering this week, commissioners with the Federal Communications Commission didn't take up matters tied to low-power stations migrating to full power, a controversial move that could have given these small, independent broadcasters must-carry status on cable systems.

Instead, they debated an issue that's core to the nation's communications policy: Pediatric obesity.

Kidding aside, the issue has been an important one for FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, who has been pushing issues related to childhood obesity and the role media serves in the area of children's health. During the past few months, advertisers, programmers and multiplatform providers have taken notice of Taylor's efforts.

Nonetheless, all of the talk about low-power stations and must-carry, white spaces, occasional hints about another push for a la carte programming, and chubby kids spending too much unhealthy time in front of the tube have become distractions from the one item the FCC should be focused on these days.

And that's the digital TV transition.

Nielsen released research this week that stated more than 9 million households are not ready for the upcoming switch to all-digital broadcasting, which is set for Feb. 17. Another 12.6 million households have at least one TV set that will no longer work when the transition occurs, meaning that nearly one in five U.S. households are either partially or completely unready for the transition, the research firm said.

Consumer Reports put out a survey that found 93 percent of consumers are aware of the transition. However, nearly one-third (32 percent) of consumers in households with at least one TV receiving off-air signals remain unaware about the need to take action before February, the group said.

In the waning days of the Bush Administration, a lame duck FCC shouldn't be pushing last-minute agenda items. Given the enormous impact digital TV will have on the nation, the commission should be focused squarely on the transition.