House Stalls Vote on DTV Switch Date

Jan 28, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The House of Representatives today rejected an attempt to immediately pass legislation delaying the digital TV transition, likely putting off a final House vote on the DTV delay until next week.

While the stall robs the Obama administration of some momentum in its effort to delay the switch from Feb. 17 to June 12, the House still can push through a delay.
The House today voted 258 to 168 to suspend its rules and pass the legislation, but that margin fell short of the two-thirds needed to act immediately. House leaders could put the same legislation on the House calendar next week in the regular order of business and avoid the need for a two-thirds vote. Democratic leaders had hoped to act expeditiously on DTV today.
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The House is acting on Senate legislation that pushes the transition date to June 12 from Feb. 17.
A spokesman for Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House leadership is “reviewing its options” about how to proceed. An announcement could come later today.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he was “deeply disappointed” by the House vote and expressed fear that it might kill a delay, though several House aides suggested a vote is still likely.
“One thing is clear, the outgoing Bush Administration grossly mismanaged the digital television transition and consumers are confused, households are not prepared, and the coupon program for converter boxes is broken,” Sen. Rockefeller said.
“While the Senate paved the way with a bipartisan bill to repair this unfortunate situation, our Republican counterparts in the House chose to stand in the way of a workable solution. Instead of delaying the transition to ensure that the most vulnerable among us have the ability to prepare for the transition, they have made certain that far too many consumers across the country will wake up on Feb. 18 and find that their television sets have gone dark and access to news, information and vital emergency alerts will be unavailable. It did not have to be this way—this situation was unnecessary and avoidable,” he added.
Late Wednesday, House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman accused Republicans of having “wasted valuable time” and suggested today’s vote “will cause needless confusion for consumers.”
“A clear majority in Congress supports postponing the transition and providing assistance to the millions of households that are unprepared. I am working with the Obama administration and congressional leadership to explore all available options,” he said.
While the 258-168 vote wasn’t enough to suspend rules—287 votes would be needed for that—it did indicate strong support for the delay. Before voting, the House added some last-minute technical amendments to the legislation, which means the Senate will have to act again after a House vote.
Republicans have opposed a delay in the DTV transition, arguing that a relatively small percentage of households aren’t ready and that many may just be waiting until the last minute, a problem that would happen no matter what date was chosen.
They’ve acknowledged that government’s coupon program for DTV converter boxes is broke—more than 2.6 million coupon requests are on a waiting list—but argued the answer is to fix the coupon program, not delay the transition.
Gary Shapiro, president-CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, said his group would support whatever Congress decides, but suggested a delay could be expensive and raises issues including whether enough converter boxes will be available.
“We urge full consideration of the implications of [a] delay,” he said in a statement. “Not only does a delay go to Americans’ ability to believe in a promise by government, but manufacturers and retailers of converter boxes made and bought boxes based on the Feb. 17 date and no one knows how a delay will affect the supply of boxes.”
He called a delay costly for broadcasters.
“In this time of massive unemployment, we are hearing from Americans concerned that the government may spend more money to delay the transition when almost every American is aware of and could plan for the transition.”
Still, he said his group would abide by whatever action Congress takes “and we applaud the brave legislators who have been willing to speak on this issue and argue that a simple legislative fix [of the converter box problem] would help address the existing problems.”
(Editor: Baumann)
(1:50 p.m.: Added statement from Rep. Henry Waxman)


  1. I am a person on a small fixed income. One of my retirerment plans left by husband has been bankrupted. I can’t afford a new tv or a box, and the coupons when taken to a local store are no Good? So I would go without My Tv because of greeded stupid Congressman

  2. I am sick of people saying consumers will be left without access to emergency alerts – radio is not affected! I rely on radio more than TV for emergencies anyway as power is often out in those situations. This is all an excuse to find something else to blame on the Bush administration. Really, the information has been out there for some time now. Broadcasters have made it plenty clear about the upcoming transition. It has been no secret. I feel sorry for Ms Taylor and those such as her, and am curious as to why exactly her coupon was not accepted. They were made available. A delay would make no difference to people such as her either way.

  3. The problem Joanna, is that the coupons expire after a certain amount of time, and many people didn’t realize this until it was too late. And since you can only get 2 per household to begin with, ordering more is probably not an option if you ordered 2 and didn’t use them before the expiration date. The other problem is that not eveyone like you relies mostly on radio and enjoys watching the news or other television programming for entertainment. I agree that the news of the transition has been out there for a long time, but as the economy worsens, those people who put off ordering coupons because they had cable or satellite service, or maybe thought they’d buy a new TV, may be in a situation now where they are cancelling cable or satellite service or are unable to purchase a new TV. Who knew two years ago that things would be this bad and would be getting worse? But good to know you and your radio are doing well.

  4. Julia, you were making your point well until until your final snarky sentence. It was silly to have an expiration before the switchover on the coupons, but if it was there, it was there. Why should the rest of us (meaning the tax paying and viewing public and those businesses bearing the cost of a delay) have to suffer because people didn’t pay attention? As for the radio aspect, of course I prefer television for my news and entertainment, but all I am saying is that the argument that people need television for emergency information doesn’t make sense. Besides, since when was it the government’s job to pay for entertainment for its citizens? Last I checked, we had no “right” to view television. Yes, it is sad that some people may temporarily miss out, but there are more important things to worry about.

  5. I agree totally. I apologize for my snarky remark, I just feel like it’s important to understand all sides and that not everyone has the same access or opportunities. I agree that the government doesn’t owe us the right to watch television, but they did get involved and mandate the transition, so I believe they do have a responsibility now to make sure the viewing public is served. I don’t agree with extending the transition because of the enormous cost to local broadcasters, I think it will put far too much burden on stations, especially at a time when they’ve already reduced their budgets in anticipation of the Feb. transition. They (the govmt.) should just make good on the coupons, and maybe extend those expiration dates. It’s just too late in the game now to switch gears, and honestly, stations that have to pick up the cost for the extension to keep the analog signals will have to make cuts in other ways, so that means possibly more lay-offs? Geez..when will it end?

  6. Thanks Julia. I think we are pretty much on the same page. Unfortunately, it still looks as if they will end up voting to extend. Grrr!

  7. what upsets me is the people like myself that live in rural communities have been forgotten. what i saying is we here are in deep fring reception areas. a converter box is not going to give us squat! without having to upgrade our antennas.
    do it yourself around $300, get the pros to do it $800. we got our converter box in june, channel 11 comes in with a very weak signal.same with our neighbors, they could afford the high cost of 800 for someone to upgrade their equiptment.
    we have no choice but to upgrade all of our equiptment. plain and simple time are tuff we don’t have that kind of money laying around! it took till nov to afford the uhf antenna($109)still need the preamp another 70 have to put that on the credit card that’s got 100 left on it(not good)still need A VHF to recieve fox network , may still have to go higher with the mast , were surrounded by trees. i’am really sick over this, and because digital is not as simple to tune into we still may have to get a pro out here to tweek it so we can have free over the air TV.
    I believe all households in the county have the right to this, have the right to stay informed and watch tv if we choose. the republicans so concerned about emergency info getting out. well I’ll be most likly in the Dark come my B-Day feb 18th and the demacrats it’s not just the very low income folks who cannot afford $40-80 , what about family’s like mine . this is so not cool at all!!!!!!!!

  8. I was against this from the start because of the reasons pointed out by mad as he!!!!!! However, Congress went ahead and mandated it anyway. Remember that was back in like 1996 or so.
    Since they gave us no choice, let’s just go ahead and do it already. You can bitch all you want, but it is coming anyway. So why delay ???

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