Senate Clears Way For More DTV Funds

Amendment to Deficit Reduction Act would free up funds for assisting consumers, low-power stations in DTV transition
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The Senate voted yesterday to free up more funding for the DTV transition with an amendment to the Deficit Reduction Act.

Specifically, the amendment would do two things: It would free up "leftover funds" from the DTV-to-analog converter box program to help assist senior citizens minorities and rural viewers in preparing for and making the transition. And it would make funding available to help low-power broadcasters make the switch to digital.

The amendment was backed by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who said, “With just seven months remaining until the DTV transition, too many Americans remain in the dark about what the DTV transition means. It is imperative that any unused funds be directed toward assisting those who will be most impacted by the switch.”

The Senate Commerce Committee in April 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-power stations 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 un-viewable.

NTIA has said that it would need direction from Congress on how to spend its converter box funds beyond the directives in the initial legislation.