Four Noncoms Join Border Stations vs. Bill

GMs of four noncommercial stations along Mexico border join 11 commercial stations in opposing bill that would extend analog broadcasts for five years past cutoff date.

Opposition is growing to a bill allowing some broadcasters to continue in analog years beyond the Feb. 17, 2009, cutoff date set by Congress.

The general managers of four noncommercial stations along the border with Mexico joined 11 commercial stations in opposing a bill that would extend analog broadcasts for five years past the cutoff date.

They signed on to a letter sent to the leadership of the House and Senate earlier this week in advance of a digital-TV-oversight hearing next week in the House that will include that topic.

Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) proposed allowing -- though not requiring -- stations within 50 miles of the Mexican border to continue in analog until 2014 to ensure that high populations of over-the-air viewers, particularly Spanish-language, still have access to emergency information.

Spanish-language stations pushed for the bill, not wanting to lose access to border viewers in both the United States and Mexico.

English-language stations countered that the continued simultaneous transmission by those stations would force them, as a competitive issue, to continue their analog broadcasts, as well, which would mean extra expense and create a nightmare down the road when they do make the switch long after the rest of the country, and without the benefit of the same national educational push toward Feb. 17.

The also said the continued dual broadcasts "threatens to put viewers along the border in a state of limbo."

The noncoms signing on to the letter were KPBS-TV San Diego; KRWG-TV Las Cruces, N.M.; KCOS-TV El Paso, Texas; and KMBH-TV Harlingen, Texas.

The border bill passed by a voice vote in the Senate and is awaiting action in the House.