Support for DTV Delay

Millions of homes reported unprepared
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The countdown to the Feb. 17 analog TV turn off continued last week, but with a bipartisan Senate bill poised to stop the clock.

Meanwhile, the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon waiting list continued to grow, and Nielsen said that more than 6.5 million TV households are not ready for the transition. The National Association of Broadcasters called that figure inflated.

After a week of congressional jockeying, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) late last week said he had reached a compromise with Republicans on a bill to move the date to June 12. On the House side, Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman cancelled a hearing on his own DTV-delay bill pending the Senate action.

What emerged from negotiations between Rockefeller and the committee's ranking Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison, was a bill that would do more than move the date, as called for in the original Rockefeller bill. The current version would also authorize the FCC to help foot the bill for the delay, “fix” delays in DTV-to-analog coupon box distribution, and permit the FCC to award vacant spectrum space to public safety agencies.

That brought the bill more in line with Waxman's, and improved its chances for passage.

A broadcast industry source said he expected the date would move since anyone blocking it would suffer political heat if the conversion faltered.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said last week that “the industry” was publicly supporting the move, while privately lobbying against it. It was not clear which part of the industry he was referring to, but one broadcast lobbyist claimed the networks were consistent in supporting the change. Barton introduced a bill late last week that would provide additional funds for the coupon program without moving the date.