Downgrading HD Signals Not Out of the Washington Woods Yet

One of the first things NAB chief David Rehr did when Congress recently passed the February 2009 hard date bill calling for an analog shut-off was to thank Capitol Hill for not allowing cable to downconvert HD transmissions to SD over the next few years. Yet although no further action on this and other DTV items seems likely this year, the issue is not quite dead and buried.

According to published reports, staffers of the House and Senate told an NAB group this week that neither chamber is likely in the present session to address those DTV issues that were cut from the hard date measure, largely as a result of rules and calendar restrictions unique to the Senate. One of those contentious issues includes allowing MSOs to downgrade 1080i or 720p content to lower resolutions in order to use less spectrum, among other things. NAB will continue to fit such a clause tooth and nail.

Broadcast execs were briefed by Hill staffers at the NAB State Leadership Conference in Washington on Feb. 27. Also, although staffers apparently did not make a big point of it as another reason for delay in further legislation, this is an election year for the entire House and a third of the Senate -- and except for any unforeseen emergency scenario, the current session will end, for all practical purposes, prior to Labor Day. (Capitol Hill pretty much shuts down for the month of August, too, as does much of official Washington.)