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FCC sponsoring NASCAR driver for DTV awareness

As the digital television transition approaches, the Federal Communications Commission is going to great lengths to ensure that you would have to be living in a cave somewhere on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border not to get the message that you might lose your signal if you're still working off a rabbit ears.

The five commissioners and their staffers have been crisscrossing the nation on an ambitious education tour, alighting on towns deemed at risk of seeing a significant number of people lose their ability to watch shows like "Hole in the Wall" and "Punk'd."

At the FCC's prompting, broadcasters have been devoting a significant portion of their ad inventory to public-service announcements about the switch.

The commission has been coordinating one-day tests in numerous markets, and recently flipped the switch in Wilmington, N.C., the only city in the country that was willing to play the role of guinea pig.

Now they're getting really creative. The FCC is going to sponsor the NASCAR No. 38 entry car for three races in the current Sprint Cup Series in the hopes that the DTV-branded car will boost awareness among fans of what apparently is "the leading spectator sport in the country," according to the press release.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin:

"NASCAR fans are known for their avid interest in this sport. Their awareness and responsiveness to NASCAR sponsors is also exceptionally high. I believe this sponsorship is an extremely effective way for the FCC to raise DTV awareness among people of all ages and income levels across the United States who loyally follow one of the most popular sports in America."

Driver David Gilliland:

"This is a very big undertaking to convert the entire country to digital services, but the end result will be improved picture and sound quality and those are definitely important factors to NASCAR fans. Yates Racing has had a tremendous 2008 season which allowed us to have a variety of important partnerships, and our No. 38 Digital TV Transition Ford will be another great example of partners who believe in the reach that we have. I am honored to help promote the Digital TV Transition messaging."

This seems a shrewd move on the FCC's part. They've already been under pressure from lawmakers nervous about how many people in their districts will go dark. Call it due diligence. The headlines are gloomy these days. The mood is grim. Probably not the time when people will take well to the perception that their government sandbagged them by stealing their television signals.

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