On Monday, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced the start of a sweeping digital television (DTV) education initiative that will bring the agency’s commissioners to 80 U.S. cities during the next five months. The tour will focus on markets identified as having at least 15% of households that rely solely on over-the-air TV signals. With the backing of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the Consumer Electronics Retailer Coalition, and the Consumer Electronics Association, FCC commissioners and other FCC staff members will visit the targeted markets and appear at public events, such as town hall meetings and workshops, that will spotlight the national DTV transition scheduled to take place on February 17, 2009. Noting that the initiative will provide greater in-depth coverage of the DTV transition than public service announcements that have aired previously on broadcast television, Martin told reporters that the events would be targeted to senior citizens, minorities and native Americans, low-income households, the disabled, and other groups who are considered most vulnerable to the loss of over-the-air analog TV signals in the wake of the DTV transition. Members of the NAB are also expected to join the nationwide tour, which will begin next week in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska. At each stop, the FCC will also work with local broadcasters and members of the local press to increase public awareness of the DTV transition. With the cooperation of the NAB, the FCC is also considering “soft tests” of temporary analog signal cut-offs in these markets “to determine consumer readiness [for] the DTV transition.” Declaring that the tour forms “part of our commitment to prepare and educate consumers,” Martin affirmed: “we intend to take whatever actions are necessary to try to continue to minimize the burden that’s going to be placed on average consumers around the country.”