Markey to map DTV path

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The Government Accounting Office is recommending that the Federal Communications
Commission consider setting a hard deadline for the conversion to digital TV and
the reclamation of analog spectrum. And Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said he will draw up
legislation in the next several weeks incorporating those suggestions and more
to get the digital-TV transition moving.

On an established "date certain," the GAO report recommended, broadcasters,
en masse, could assert digital must-carry rights, but they would lose their analog
must-carry protection.

Currently, broadcasters are required to give up their analog signals in
December 2006, but only if at least 85 percent of TV households can receive
digital-TV signals, which the GAO labeled "unlikely."

The GAO issued the report Monday in response to a request from Markey, ranking minority member of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee.

The study also suggested considering mandating that all new TVs be "digital-cable-ready," although it said issues of consumer cost and compatibility would
have to be addressed first.

The report also said the FCC should find a way to better publicize the
transition to digital TV. That's because a GAO survey found that 40 percent of
respondents had never heard of the digital transition, with only one in five
"very aware" of it.

The GAO said a spot check of 23 retail stores also found that sales staff
"sometimes provided inaccurate or incomplete information about DTV equipment and
programming."

"I believe that the GAO's recommendations with respect to mandating cable
tuners, as well as the notion of a switch-over to digital from analog must-carry
rights, merit particular attention," Markey said in a prepared statement announcing the
study's release "I will be crafting legislative proposals in the coming weeks
that contain the policy suggestions advanced by the GAO, as well as other
initiatives, for consideration by my Subcommittee colleagues."

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