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Bill Advances to Delay Analog Shutdown Near Mexican Border

Some full-power stations could continue analog transmissions after February 2009 after all, if a bill passed by the U.S. Senate becomes law.

The Digital Television Border Fix Act of 2007, sponsored by Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., establishes a process for broadcasters along the border to apply for FCC permission to continue both analog and digital broadcasting for up to four years after most full-power analog transmissions end. It passed the Senate last week.

“Many Texas residents are unprepared for the fast-approaching DTV transition, especially those who live along the border,” said Hutchison. “Households that continue watching stations from Mexico, rather than taking steps to prepare for the transition, may not receive AMBER Alert and Emergency Alert System messages.”

Spanish-language stations north of the border also don’t want to lose analog viewers south of the border, where there is no coupon progam subsidizing the converter boxes.

The bill lets the FCC deny a station the right to simulcast in both analog and digital after February if it does not serve the public interest or causes interference with DTV stations or public safety.

The continued availability of analog programming from Mexico may be helping discourage some U.S. residents to participate in the transition by subscribing to pay television or obtaining a DTV converter box. The request and redemption rate for the government’s $40 coupons for the boxes is extremely low along the border, Hutchison said.

Companion legislation, H.R. 5435, has been introduced in the House by Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif.

Hutchison recently ascended to the vice-chairmanship of the Senate Commerce Committee following the resignation from the post of Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who is facing federal charges related to allegedly accepting illegal gifts.