McCain: Speed it up

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In a statement on the Senate floor, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) threatened broadcasters, cable
operators, consumer-electronics manufacturers and content providers Wednesday with
legislation if they can't get the digital transition on the road to completion.

While he lauded Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell's
voluntary plan to jump-start the transition, he strongly encouraged the industry
to show some movement.

"If significant progress isn't made in the DTV transition, then I will
introduce legislation that will not be voluntary," McCain said. "Codifying
chairman Powell's voluntary proposal may be the mildest measure we should
consider."

McCain has long complained that broadcasters got away with $70 billion in
spectrum giveaways when they won the right to use two 6-megahertz chunks of
spectrum while they convert from analog to digital.

On the House side, Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin
(R-La.) is also telling the industry to move things along. "Let me make one
thing clear: This transition will take place, and broadcasters that have not made
their digital plans yet had better get started soon because the clock is
ticking," Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson said.

Last week, the General Accounting Office released a report stating that
nearly three-quarters of broadcasters would miss the conversion date, which fell
Wednesday.

That report also led Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to push for legislation, which
he would like to see sooner rather than later.

The National Association of Broadcasters said Wednesday that 49 more stations
have converted to digital, bringing the total to 374.

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