Telemundo GMS Talk DTV in D.C.

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NBC-owned Telemundo stations have a message for Washington: Our constituents aren't ready for the switch to digital.

General managers from all of the Telemundo TV stations are traveling to Washington Thursday to make that point in meetings with legislators and staffers about the DTV transition, particularly a bill being prepared by House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.).

Barton wants to establish a hard date, perhaps as early as Dec. 31, 2006, for the switch to digital and the cut-off of analog transmissions.

Barton is not on the list of appointments--a Telemundo spokesman was not sure whether or not he had been approached--but among those that have agreed to meet with the GMs are members of the Congressional Hispanic Conference (Republicans) and Congressional Hispanic Caucus (Democrats), as well as Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), staffers for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), and Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee.

"We are here to educate Congress on what this experience would be and how it will impact Spanish-language viewers," Araceli De Leon, general manager of KWHY Los Angeles, told B&C.

She said that she and her colleagues plan to tell legislators that their viewers would be particularly disadvantaged by a 2006 switch, emphasizing that Spanish-speaking viewers are less likely to own DTV sets or to subscribe to cable or satellite.

They will also lobby for multicasting. The FCC has declined to mandate cable carriage of multiple broadcast signals, though Congress could include that directive in the DTV bill.
And what if the government promises to subsidize digital converter boxes for those analog sets? De Leon says that would make it more complicated for the viewer. "I don't necessarily think that is the solution."

The Barton bill is expected to be introduced in the next several weeks.