Barton Baby Could Bounce DTV Bill Deadline

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We have it on good authority that the House Commerce Committee is looking for some wiggle (and giggle and cry) room in its deadline for getting a new DTV transition bill to the budget committee.

The deadline for both the Senate and House Commerce Committees is to get the bill done is Sept. 16, but Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) and wife Terri have scheduled Sept. 15 as the delivery date for their new son, and so staffers are working with the budget committee to see if there is any possibility to push that deadline a bit.

The deadline is not statutory, but a congressional deadline that could have some flexibility in it. Either way, one Senate source familiar with the bill's crafting said he expected it would include a "no set left behind" subsidy for every analog-only receiver, not just for those who met an economic-needs test.

That source said the need to get analog spectrum to emergency responders should be enough to justify using whatever auction proceeds it takes to cover an analog-only set converter to everybody who needs one, preventing a political backlash in the bargain.

The bill is also likely to contain a requirement that TV sets include labels that spell out their capability, including the date after which they would not operate without a digital converter. That issue is a very personal one with Barton, who has talked on several occasions of a TV-buying trip he made in Texas where the salesman tried to convince him an analog set would be a fine purchase because Congress wasn't going to do anything about the DTV transition anytime soon.

While a House staffer said that side of the aisle was leaning toward a June or July 2009 date for the cut-off of analog, the Senate is still looking to January.

Neither side is saying whether there will be a multicast cable must-carry provision, which broadcasters are pushing hard for.

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