Congress: DTV for left-out stations


Included in a bill on bioterrorism that the House of Representatives passed on
Thursday was an amendment that would require the Federal Communications
Commission to give digital-television allocations to television stations that
received their construction permits after the FCC had already handed out the
digital allocations.

Analog licensees in four markets -- Charlottesville, Va.; Fredericksburg,
Texas; Sheridan, Wyo.; and Los Angeles -- want digital-television slots but
received their analog licenses after April 3, 1997, which was when the FCC
assigned digital channels.

The bill, authored by House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy
Tauzin (R-La.), would require the applicants to ask the FCC for digital
assignments, and then once received, to build digital facilities within 18 months.

The broadcasters would also be required to transmit from their digital
channels and not to accept payments from any company to clear the channel before
the industrywide transition to digital television is completed.

The Senate is expected to pass the bill before the weekend, and it then goes
to President Bush to sign.