House panel pulls DTV-switch funds

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A House Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday voted to eliminate fiscal-2004
funding for the main federal program used to help public TV stations convert to

As part of the appropriations bill to fund the Departments of Commerce,
Justice and State, as well as the federal courts, the lawmakers voted to
eliminate essentially all funding for the National Telecommunications
Information Administration program that matches nonfederal funds raised by
public broadcasters building and repairing facilities and equipment.

Even though the money could be added before final appropriations bills are
approved by the House and Senate, Association of Public Television Stations
chief executive John Lawson said the decision will have "an immediate, negative
impact on the ability of public television stations to deliver important new
services to their communities" because of the uncertainty over future funding.

The decision "basically pulls the rug out from under the key source of
matching funds to help our stations complete the transition. If not changed in
the final bill, this cut essentially makes digital conversion an unfunded
federal mandate," he added.