Transition May Get 30-Day Reprieve

It turns out, full-power analog broadcasting may not end entirely on midnight Feb. 17.

Thursday, the Senate passed a bill providing a 30-day extension for the analog signals. The legislation, the Short-term Analog Flash and Emergency Readiness Act, (SAFER) pitches the need for emergency information after Feb. 17. But broadcasters will be also permitted to run information about the transition for those who still haven’t heard, or just didn’t really believe, that broadcasters would pull the plug.

It’s that informational angle that the NAB celebrated in a statement.

"Coupled with our billion dollar campaign to educate Americans on the digital TV transition, this timely legislation will give broadcasters one final resource to ensure that no TV viewer is left behind due to insufficient information,” NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton said.

The extension won’t affect all broadcasters. Those flash-cutting to DTV on the same channel used for analog will be unable to keep the analog on, and some broadcasters may choose not to keep the old signal running of they feel it’s not worth the expense of operating the second channel. The bill does not allow any delay of DTV transmissions.

The bill, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent, was sponsored by Jay Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., who will take over as Senate Commerce Committee chairman in the 111th Congress, and by Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, the top Republican on the panel.

The House is expected to take up companion legislation, sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., when it returns in December.