Senate Sets 2009 Digital TV Deadline
By JENNIFER C. KERR
The Senate moved the digital TV transition one step closer to reality
on Thursday, setting a firm date for television broadcasters to switch
to all-digital transmissions.
Lawmakers gave broadcasters until April 7, 2009, to end their
traditional analog transmissions. The so-called "hard date" was
included in a sweeping budget bill.
The bill also would provide $3 billion to help millions of Americans
buy digital-to-analog converter boxes for their older television sets
- so those consumers will continue to receive a signal once the switch
is made permanent.
Legislation approved last month by the House Energy and Commerce
Committee calls for a Dec. 31, 2008, deadline and provides nearly $1
billion for the converter boxes.
Differences between the measures would need to be worked out in a
In the Senate, an amendment by Republican John Ensign of Nevada that
would have reduced the converter box subsidy to $1 billion was
withdrawn. Spokesman Jack Finn said Ensign was concerned that the $2
billion in savings would be spent on other projects instead of deficit
Digital television promises sharper pictures and better sound than
National Association of Broadcasters president Eddie Fritts said the
2009 deadline "represents a victory for millions of Americans who
could have been left stranded by a premature end to analog television
The move to all-digital will free valuable radio spectrum, some of
which will be allocated to improve radio communications among fire and
police departments and other first responders.
Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., unsuccessfully
offered an amendment to move up the hard date by one year, saying
"first responders' ability to communicate during times of tragedy can
be literally a matter of life and death."
Public safety officials had pressed for the earliest possible transition.
"We would have preferred an earlier date, but the most important thing
is that we have a firm date so that people can start the planning and
funding process," said Robert Gurss, director of legal and government
affairs at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.
In addition to the hard date, the Senate measure also set aside an
additional $1 billion for public safety to buy new radio
The original digital television bill was sponsored by Sens. Ted
Stevens, R-Alaska, and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.
Separately on Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission moved up
by four months the date by which small TV sets sold in the U.S., those
13 inches to 24 inches, must have tuners to receive digital
signals. The new deadline will be March 1, 2007. Sets under 13 inches
will also have to have digital tuners by that date.
The commission had previously ruled that mid-sized sets, screens from
25 inches to 36 inches, be digital-ready by March 1, 2006.
On the Net:
Federal Communications Commission: http://www.fcc.gov
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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