Bush Budget Proposal Includes Redux of Spectrum Tax Proposal

Once again, the White House has proposed a whopping threat to the broadcast television industry to prod them toward completion of the digital transition: surrender the analog spectrum by 2007 or face a half-billion in fees, spread across the industry.

The proposal appears cut and pasted from previous Bush and Clinton administration budgets and would authorize the FCC to levy the taxes, which would decline as broadcasters gave up the airwaves. None of the past proposals have gained any political traction or been adopted.

But the threat, a reminder that the government can give, take away or charge for broadcast licenses, is enough to get a response from the NAB, again.

"Congress has wisely rejected spectrum taxes on broadcasters for the past several years, because lawmakers recognize the timetable for the transition to digital television will be determined by consumer acceptance and not by arbitrary government dictates," NAB President Eddie Fritts said. "Free, over-the-air broadcasters are doing everything possible to complete the transition to digital, as evidenced by the 733 local stations that have made the switch to DTV. Broadcasters should not be saddled with an unfair spectrum tax, which would ultimately slow the transition to digital and harm consumers who rely on local stations for high quality news, information and entertainment programming."