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Border Stations Oppose Analog Shutdown Extension

TV station managers and owners along the U.S.-Mexico border dropped a note to Congress earlier this month asking members not to extend the Feb. 17, 2009 analog shutdown date in that area. The Border Fix Act, a proposed bill making the rounds on the Hill, would allow stations within 50 miles of the border to continue analog transmissions through 2014. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), is intended to provide border households, particularly Hispanic households, continued access to emergency alert communications. A similar bill sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) failed to pass last year.

Managers and executives at stations in San Diego, Calif.; El Paso, Brownsville and Weslaco, Texas and Yuma, Ariz., were among those signing a letter addressed to the Democratic co-chairmen and the ranking members of the House Commerce Committee. Group executives in Denver, St. Louis, Mo.; and Lafayette, La., also signed it.

“Congress has asked broadcasters to transition to digital and our stations along the US-Mexico border have risen to the challenge,” the letter stated. “We have spent literally millions of dollars to be digital ready on Feb. 17, 2009. Many of us have multiple channels including local weather channels and targeted entertainment formats to better serve our markets and fulfill the promise of enhanced digital technologies. In the difficult financial environment today, should Congress now add the significant financial burden to border broadcasters of continuing analog broadcasting operations for an additional five years?”

The authors urged lawmakers to instead make sure the area was blanketed in digital-to-analog converters and the federal subsidy coupons to buy them, as well as continued education about the analog shutdown.