Consumer education remains the most important—and underserved—segment of the looming ’09 digital TV transition, said panelists Mon at CEA’s Washington summit. Amid playful barbs between NCTA pres/CEO Kyle McSlarrow and CEA chief Gary Shapiro (particularly over CableCARD legislation), Assoc of Public TV Stations pres/CEO John Lawson said assn polling shows that 60% of over-the-air households (approx 22mln) have "no clue" about the impending transition. And panelists said even awareness doesn’t necessarily translate to understanding, creating a sticky situation with less than 2 years until the transition date. "The message can’t just be ‘you’re TV will go dark’," said Lawson. "The key is to exploit the benefits and advantages." One consumer benefit: further proliferation of HD programming, which McSlarrow called the "point of the spear." But NAB evp Marcellus Alexander said the best benefit is freed-up bandwidth for 1st responders. Whatever the case, panelists said education remains paramount. "We all recognize that a pretty massive PSA campaign has to be part of the mix," said McSlarrow. Alexander said grassroots outreach—especially to non-tech savvy Americans such as retired persons—is also important.

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