The Senate Commerce Committee quickly agreed last week to allow the government to give out $65 million to help low-power TV stations and translators make the switch to digital on Feb. 17, 2009, as full-power stations will do.
The way the bill had been originally written, low-powers would not get the money until October 2010. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) requested the change to alleviate concerns raised by the fact that its DTV-to-analog converter boxes are not permitted to have analog tuners in them and are not required to pass through analog signals. That would make the low-power stations virtually unviewable.
Also last week, the NTIA made first steps toward correcting some gaffes in the government's rules about which consumers qualify for the government-issued $40 coupon to help defray the cost of converter boxes. It will now allow residents of nursing homes and consumers with post-office boxes as addresses to apply for the coupons.