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DTV Date Switch Facilitated by Senate

Jan 29, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The prospects for a delay of the switch to all-digital broadcast TV signals increased as the Senate approved a revised piece of legislation that would permit pushing back the Feb. 17 DTV deadline.
With no debate, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the bill in anticipation of a House of Representatives vote next Tuesday to delay the transition to June 12.
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The Obama administration urged the House to act next week to delay the changeover.
“Poor planning and inadequate funding of the DTV conversion means that millions of Americans risk being left in the dark on February 17th,” the administration said in a statement.
“This bipartisan legislation which again passed unanimously in the Senate tonight appropriately acknowledges the needs of both the American consumer and the public safety community. We urge the House to move quickly to pass this bill, and we will work with Congress to improve the information and assistance available to Americans as the nation moves to digital television.”
The Senate vote was expected after senators discovered that there were technical flaws in the original version of the legislation approved Monday night. The most recent Senate vote eliminates one obstacle to enacting a DTV delay when the House returns Monday.
The new Senate vote means the House will be sending any legislation it approves directly to President Barack Obama, speeding approval.
Republicans have opposed the DTV date shift as unnecessary and offered an alternative that would instead fix the problem with government coupons for converter boxes. Money for converter-box coupons has temporarily run out, leaving requests for 2.6 million coupons on a waiting list.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockeller, D- W.Va., offered the new Senate bill with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, the ranking Republican on his committee.
“The Senate has acted quickly and in a bipartisan way to put the needs of consumers first,” Mr. Rockefeller said. “The House will have a second chance next week to implement this delay, I am hopeful they will pass this bill so we can send it to President Obama.”
Sen. Hutchison said that while she and Sen. Rockefeller agreed to the extension, the deadline won’t be extended again after June.
“I do want to serve notice that I will not support another delay in implementation,” she said. “By now, people, have had the notice and we’ve done everything to mitigate the cost of this transition. I’ve talked with Sen. Rockefeller about that and I think we are in agreement that now is the time for people to get their coupons and boxes because on June 12 this transition will be made.”
The bid to delay the national changeover comes as a number of the nation’s 1,800 stations are quietly making the switch to digital. The Federal Communications Commission said tonight that 133 TV stations have already switched to digital-only signals, with another 67 set to switch before Feb. 17 and 93 to switch at midnight Feb. 17, whatever happens with the delay legislation.
(Editor: Baumann. Updated 5:55 p.m. to add administration comment.)

10 Comments

  1. This continues to be a ridiculous waste of time for the Senate and Congress.
    Anyone not “ready” today after years of advance notice and 13 months of the CECB program will not be ready four months from now, I guarantee you.
    Sen. Hutchison is on serious drugs if she things the delay will not be extended again and again and again as more interest groups pop up among people who are “not ready” for the switch and demands are made that CECBs must be free, not just heavily subsidized.
    Meanwhile, many people I know who bought CECBs with their coupons have since gone on to purchase digital TVs, and their federally subsidized boxes now sit in their basements or garages collecting dust until they someday get sent off to Goodwill.

  2. This is a waste of government time and effort. There was plenty of notice and the added expense of running two transmitters is costing tv stations unnecessary expense. The government is grandstanding to attract votes. I thought the government wanted CHANGE?

  3. “Many people I know who bought CECBs with their coupons have since gone on to purchase digital TVs, and their federally subsidized boxes now sit in their basements or garages collecting dust until they someday get sent off to Goodwill.”
    That’s people YOU know. But the country isn’t limited to people in your social circles. I can’t believe people are so Marie Antoinette when it comes to the digital transition.
    Read this:
    https://www.tvweek.com/news/2009/01/32_million_now_awaiting_conver.php
    3.2 million people aren’t in your social circles are still waiting for coupons.

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