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House Begins Debating DTV Delay Bill

Feb 4, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The House of Representatives began considering legislation this afternoon to postpone the digital TV transition from Feb. 17 to June 12. A final House vote to send the delay to President Barack Obama for his signature now is expected later this afternoon.
President Obama had asked for the legislation and could sign it later this week after today’s House vote.
For TVWeek’s comprehensive coverage of the digital television transition, visit the DTV Switch Navigator page.
Today’s debate opened with a precursor debate on a House rule allowing quick consideration later today of the legislation itself, but most of the congressmen talked about the delay, not the rule.
“This bill has been debated ad nauseam over a long period of time,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. “If you want your telephone ringing off the hook, don’t act responsibly.”
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., also warned about what might happen without a delay: “Without this legislation, millions of televisions will go dark.”
Republicans, however, questioned the delay.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, ranking Republican member of the House Energy & Commerce, asked why the House was acting on legislation that has received no congressional hearing. He also noted the legislation doesn’t immediately fix the government program that provides $40 coupons for converter-box purchases, which has temporarily run out of money. He suggested many TV stations will switch to digital early anyway.
Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., asked why Democrats weren’t willing to accept amendments to the legislation. One amendment he wanted to offer would have let TV stations with more than $100,000 in costs from delaying to move early.
Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Texas, said there was no reason for a delay.
“I don’t know how you could possibly be watching television and not know this was coming,” he said.

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