Smart Coalition Pushes for DTV Bills - Broadcasting & Cable

Smart Coalition Pushes for DTV Bills

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Lobbying on the DTV bills being crafted in the House and Senate Commerce Committees continues to heat up.

The Coalition for a Smart Digital TV Transition held a press conference on Capitol Hill this week pushing the committees to deal with the issues of a digital-to-analog set-top subsidy, consumer education campaign, and multicast must-carry.

The "Smart" in the name translates to mandatory cable carriage of all a broadcaster's multiple digital TV channels and aiding rural viewers in the transition, including funding set-tops and a consumer education campaign about when, where and how the transition is being accomplished.

The latter two are widely expected to be in one of two Senate DTV bills. The first is more problematic, as cable and broadcast lobbyists battle fiercely over the issue.

The coalition includes unions, minority advocates, farm organizations, and network affiliate groups.

“Inclusion of multicast must carry language in final bills will prevent cable from stripping out valuable multicast programming," said Larry Mitchell, spokesman for the Alliance for Rural Television, at the press briefing. "[It] will ensure that elderly, rural and minority residents will not be deprived of access to vital information.”

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said Wednesday he hoped to finish a bill dealing with a hard date for return of analog spectrum, and a separate one dealing with attendant issues, by the end of the month. The coalition was buoyed by that news.

It had feared, and with reason, that the hard date bill would be stripped of other issues to comport with Senate rules against legislating on appropriations bills. But it was also concerned that the second bill Stevens had promised could get pushed into next year becaus of the contentiousness of the issues.

Stevens gave not gilt-edged guarantee the second bill could be done this month, but said at a media conference this week that that was his goal.

Stevens has to get the first bill done by Oct. 19 so it can go to the budget committee. There is expected to be only one House bill, which also has an Oct. 19 deadline.

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