FCC disputes stimulus numbers

The Federal Communications Commission is disputing numbers cited in today's story about stimulus money given to Democratic pollster Mark Penn's businesses for a public relations campaign surrounding the digital television transition (see previous post).

An FCC spokesman said that, while $5.9 million was reserved for the campaign intended to get Americans ready for the digital TV transition, only $4.35 million was actually awarded to Burson-Marsteller, Penn's public relations firm, to carry out the campaign.

While $2.7 million was directed to Penn's other firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, only $142,000 actually was paid to the firm. The rest was spent on ads and public service announcements on radio stations and in newspapers. TV stations were conducting their own awareness campaigns. The spokesman also said there was a competitive bidding process for the contract.

Money from the stimulus package was allocated to helping consumers get ready for the nation-wide switch from analog to digital broadcasting in a final awareness blitz leading up to the June 12 transition. The date was pushed back from Feb. 17 by the Obama transition team when concerns were raised that households weren't ready and could lose TV service.