Senate Panel to Vote on DTV Deadline of April 7, 2009

Oct 17, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Legislation slated for a vote Wednesday in the Senate Commerce Committee would set a deadline of April 7, 2009, for the broadcast industry’s conversion to digital television and would address other issues related to congressional budgetary concerns associated with the DTV transition.

On Monday it was unclear whether a companion bill that could settle a fight between broadcasters and cable operators for a multicast carriage requirement and other thorny issues related to the transition will be voted on at the same time.

A committee spokesperson said the five-page draft bill by the committee staff that is expected to be on the Wednesday voting agenda also proposes to earmark money to subsidize the acquisition of at least some digital-to-analog converter boxes for consumers. But how much money will actually go to the program depends on how much money is raised from the federal auctions of the analog channels that broadcasters are supposed to return to the government after the DTV transition is complete.

Under a legislative draft being circulated by the committee staff, the first $4.8 billion of the auction revenues raised will go to the federal treasury, with the remainder divvied up among five programs, including one for DTV converter costs and another to help law enforcement agencies acquire emergency communications equipment.

Under the committee’s game plan, the provisions in the bill have to be restricted to budgetary concerns because the committee wants to include the measure in a massive budget reconciliation bill that will be used to set spending limits for the committee and can include only provisions that are strictly related to congressional budget concerns. Multicasting and other issues related to the conversion are expected to be settled in a separate bill that the committee staff was still working on Monday.