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Senate Sets Limited DTV Transition Deadline
10/5/2004

Congress has been pushing the FCC to set a date by which all TV broadcasters end analog TV broadcasting and return spectrum for reallocation and use by public safety agencies. The main focus has been on TV channels 63, 64, 68 and 69, which have been allocated for public safety use. Although legislation by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to set a date for the end of analog TV broadcasting was defeated, a compromise amendment from Sen. Conrad Burns, (R-Mont.) requires clearing TV stations from channels 63, 64, 68 and 69 by 2008.

The National Association of Broadcasters weekly "TV Today" e-mail newsletter quoted John Orlando, executive vice president of NAB Government Relations saying, "While this language will certainly affect some stations and groups very directly, it makes significant strides in improving an amendment that would otherwise have decimated the entire over-the-air television industry."

Although most of the press coverage of the Senate debate focused on the battle to set a firm date for the end of analog TV broadcasting and the return of spectrum, when I examined the text of the amendments to Senate Bill S.2845 I found the amendment provided methods for speeding the DTV transition.

Section 08 - Digital Transition Program, provides for establishment of a program to assist households in obtaining digital-to-analog converter devices to allow existing analog TV sets to continue to operate when receiving a digital signal or to pay a one-time installation fee "or installing the equipment required for residential reception of services provided by a multichannel video programming distributor (as defined in section 602(13) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 602(13)); or (3) in the purchase of any other device that will enable the household to receive over-the-air digital television broadcast signals, but in an amount not in excess of the average per-household assistance provided under paragraphs (1) and ( 2)." Under the amendment, this program would have to become publicly available no later than January 1, 2008.

Section 09 - FCC Authority to Require Label Requirement for Analog Television Sets, states that, "If the Commission acts to set a hard deadline for the return of analog spectrum pursuant to Section 309(j)(14), it shall have the authority to require that any apparatus described in paragraph (s) sold or offered for sale in or affecting interstate commerce that is incapable of receiving and displaying a digital television broadcast signal without the use of an external device that translates digital television broadcast signals into analog television broadcast signals have affixed to it and, if it is sold or offered for sale in a container, affixed to that container, a label that states that the apparatus will be incapable of displaying over-the-air television broadcast signals received after a date determined by the FCC, without the purchase of additional equipment."

Another section of the amendment would prohibit shipment of "unlabeled obsolescent television sets", stating, "No person shall ship in interstate commerce or manufacture in the United States any apparatus described in section 303(s) of this Act except in accordance with rules prescribed by the Commission under section 303(z) of this Act." The amendment also requires FCC action on Dockets relating to the DTV conversion.

If you want more complete information than that provided in the news stories last week, I encourage you to visit thomas.loc.gov and do a little research on your own. This Web site can also update you on Congressional actions as they happen. At the thomas.loc.gov home page, enter S.2845 in the bill to search for. When the results are displayed, click on "Bill Summary and Status." To see Sen. Burn's amendments, click on "Amendments" and scroll down to see S.AMDT.3773. Look for the text of the amendments on pages S9967 through S9969. You can also view pages SS9967. S9968, and S9969 individually as PDF files.
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