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NAB Says Broadcasters Will Support DTV Transition Bill

Jul 12, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The National Association of Broadcasters announced Tuesday that broadcasters will support a law that would require TV stations to switch to digital by 2009.

In addition, NAB said it is willing to discuss having broadcasters take on new quantified public interest obligations in exchange for a regulation requiring cable TV operators to carry all of the signals that broadcasters multicast on their digital frequencies.

Broadcasters have long come under attack for allegedly dragging their feet on the transition. So the announcement by NAB President and CEO Eddie Fritts during Senate hearings Tuesday that the association now endorses a “hard date” in 2009 for the switch pre-empts one of the key arguments that critics have been using against the industry. “Broadcasters accept that Congress will implement a 2009 hard date for the end of analog broadcasts,” Mr. Fritts said in his testimony.

“It’s a welcome thing,” said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, of NAB’s new commitments in a post-hearing session with reporters. Sen. Stevens, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, told reporters he isn’t “comfortable” with a cable TV industry proposal that would allow operators to downconvert broadcast DTV signals to analog at system headends, making it cheaper for cable operators to provide broadcast signals to analog subscribers who don’t have digital-to-analog converter set-top boxes.

In addition, Sen. Stevens said he favors setting the hard date for the transition sometime in 2009, but at a time when Congress is in session. “I think there’s liable to be a last-minute glitch that would require some type of modification to make this transition really work,” he said. Sen. Stevens also said he wants to set a hard date barring the sale of analog-only TV sets for as early as this year. “We’ve got to stop that,” he said. “It should be sooner rather than later.”