Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell Wednesday pitched the Senate Commerce Committee on his digital-TV transition proposal to set 2009 as a hard date for return of the analog spectrum.
He told the committee that would give all parties fair warning so that they could plan accordingly.
The issue before the committee was the recommendation by the 9/11 Commission to speed the return of broadcast spectrum for public safety uses.
A proposed bill would set the give-back date of spectrum for channels in the 700 Mhz band now used by 75 TV stations at Jan. 1, 2007. Powell argued that if Congress decided to make that a hard date, it should also set the 2009 hard date too in order to minimize the inequity of making one group of broadcasters give up their channels before the rest.
He pointed out that the FCC was working on Congress' timetable.
Paxson Chairman Bud Paxson, who owns 10 stations on affected channels in the band, argued that the 2007 takeback was unfair and a serious hardship both on his company and his audience.
When asked when he thought it would be time to take back the channels, Paxson responded: "I can't tell you when is the second coming of Christ and I can’t tell you when it is going to be intelligent to cut off all analog signals."
Several of the Senators took shots at broadcasters, including McCain, who gave Donovan a hard time over missed DTV deadlines, and most pointedly by Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), co-sponsor of the bill, who said he was "tired of broadcasters excuses."