Barton, Stearns raise questions about DTV delay

Two House Republicans have raised concerns that the general public and television broadcasters have been misled about how many stations will be allowed to transition early now that Congress has extended the deadline for the DTV transition till mid-June.

Joe Barton, ranking member, Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Cliff Stearns, ranking member subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, requested FCC acting-chairman Michael Copps to tell them how many stations could shut off their analog transmitters and broadcast digitally at full power and to identify them. Alternately, pair asked for the approximate percentage of stations that the commission believes will be able to transition prior to the extended date.

The Congressmen raised the issue because of the tight interlocking nature of the DTV transition, which will require some stations to vacate temporary channel assignments prior to other stations taking over that channel for permanent digital operations.

“Our understanding is that, because of the interference concerns, most broadcast stations would not be allowed to transition under current FCC rules until around the time that all broadcast stations transition,” the pair said in the letter to Copps. “Consequently, most of the spectrum promised to First Responders would also be unavailable until the delayed transition date.”

The House was scheduled to vote on the DTV delay legislation Feb. 3.