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Congress wants analog TV spectrum back

Broadcasters may have initiated the DTV transition, but now it’s members of Congress who are pushing to end it. Included as part of the legislation package overhauling the national intelligence establishment — passed by the House and Senate last week — was a “Sense of the Congress” resolution asking broadcasters to vacate and return their analog spectrum.

The resolution is non-binding and came only after broadcast industry lobbyists once again held back lawmakers who wanted to legally force stations to vacate TV channels 63, 64, 68 and 69 by 2008 for public safety uses. The resolution asked broadcasters to begin digital transmissions and return a portion of the analog spectrum as early as Dec. 31, 2006.

Rep. Joe Barton, (R-Texas), chairman the House Commerce Committee, authored the resolution. He, along with Sen. John McCain, (R-Arizona), the Senate Commerce Committee chairman, are strong proponents of setting a hard deadline for ending the DTV transition. Both are expected to make a deadline for the return of spectrum a major issue of the next Congress.

The government intelligence overhaul stemmed from the problems revealed by the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. The provision on digital television was included because of needs for additional spectrum to bolster emergency communications.

The measure passed the Senate 89-2, while the House voted 336-75 for approval.

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