Senate Analog Nightlight Bill Introduced

Bill would allow broadcasters to continue broadcasting in analog for 30 days after Feb. 17, 2009.

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would allow broadcasters to continue broadcasting in analog for 30 days after the Feb. 17, 2009, date for TV stations to transition to full-power digital TV.

Broadcasters would still transition their primary channel feeds to digital Feb. 17, but they could continue to broadcast DTV-education information and emergency information for that 30-day period.

The analog cutoff is currently set, by statute, for Feb. 17.

The Senate bill was introduced by John D. Rockefeller (D-W. Va.). Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) introduced a similar bill in the House last week.

A number of broadcasters suggested a similar move, prompted in part by lessons learned from the Wilmington, N.C., early analog shutoff, where stations there continued to air analog signals with a DTV-education graphic. The Federal Communications Commission received several-thousand calls from viewers with requests for help of various kinds.

Rockefeller's bill would not require stations to remain broadcasting in analog, but it would require the FCC by Jan. 15, 2009, to develop a program to "encourage and permit, to the extent technically feasible," the extra 30 days of analog.

Some stations may not be able to continue in both formats because they will have to replace their top-mounted analog transmitters with digital ones. In fact, some stations will pull the plug on analog early so they don’t have to make that transmitter switch in mid-winter.

The bill faces an uphill climb, with Congress ready to exit after resolving the financial-bailout issue.