House unit slates more digital hearings


The House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee plans later this month to hold the second in a series of hearings on the transition to digital television, sources say.

Specifically, the committee will look at the various DTV deadlines, including what to do about stations in small markets that are unlikely to make the May 2002 conversion deadline, how to handle the 2006 deadline by which broadcasters are supposed to give back their analog spectrum, and how to more quickly get broadcasters off of channels 52-59 and 60-69.

The committee is working on legislation, initiated by the Bush Administration, that would delay the auctions of channels 60-69 and 52-59 either to Sept. 2002 and Sept. 2004, respectively, or possibly postpone both auctions until 2004. That legislation also may include incentives for broadcasters on those higher channels to clear their spectrum quickly so it can be put to use for third-generation wireless services.

According to a plan first proposed by Paxson Communications Chairman Bud Paxson, broadcasters could accept payments from wireless companies who want to use the spectrum, and they also may be able to keep broadcasting in analog but from a lower channel allocation, says one Hill source.

Lawmakers are hoping to get the bill passed this year. A third hearing on digital television is planned for later this year, looking at copyright and content issues.
- Paige Albiniak