Bill could force 2006 give-back


In a move sure to spark a massive lobbying fight by the broadcast industry, a
discussion draft of proposed digital-TV legislation would require broadcasters to
return analog spectrum by 2006 and drop a current law allowing stations to keep
analog spectrum beyond that date if fewer than 85 percent of homes in their
market can receive a broadcast digital signal.

The measure is supported by the wireless industry, which is eager for the
government to reclaim analog spectrum and auction it off for new uses.

Broadcasters said the 85 percent trigger is necessary to ensure their survival
while consumers make the switch to digital TV.

No major consumer technology switch has been completed in the short time
frame that would be required by a hard 2006 give-back date, they said.

The legislation floated Wednesday night was drafted by staffs of House Energy
and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and the committee's ranking
Democrat, John Dingell of Michigan.