McCain Proposes Earlier DTV Deadline

Nov 2, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Broadcasters would be required to switch to digital TV by April 7, 2008, under an amendment introduced by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Wednesday afternoon.

Legislation recently approved by the Senate Commerce Committee set the transition date at April 7, 2009. But in a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. McCain said he believes it is important to advance the deadline to free up for public-safety use some channels that broadcasters are currently using for analog TV broadcasts.

According to Sen. McCain, lawmakers have to choose between helping the nation’s first responders get additional spectrum to improve their communications services as quickly as possible and deferring to the broadcasting industry’s desire to postpone the DTV transition deadline.

“I’m most of all sick and tired of the National Association of Broadcasters keeping this transition from taking place,” Sen. McCain said. But Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, opposed Sen. McCain’s amendment on the Senate floor, alleging that it would throw a monkey wrench into a DTV transition plan that the Commerce Committee has already carefully considered.

“It would destroy the process we’re in,” Sen. Stevens said. “I urge the Senate not to adopt it.”

Public safety groups are promoting the DTV transition because they are slated to get 24 megahertz of the analog TV spectrum that broadcasters are supposed to return to the federal government in the transition’s wake.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., was expected to introduce an amendment Wednesday evening that would limit the Senate DTV transition legislation’s subsidy for digital-to-analog set-top boxes to $1 billion. The DTV bill recently approved by the Senate Commerce Committee would provide $3 billion for set-top box subsidies.

Senate votes on the amendments are expected Thursday.