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Draft on House DTV bill could come this week

With draft legislation possible as early as this week, a key lawmaker reported progress in the ongoing effort to reach bipartisan agreement within the House Energy and Commerce Committee on legislation designed to expedite the DTV transition, the National Journal reported.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee, told the Journal that a discussion draft of the legislation may be ready this week and that the committee might hold a hearing on the bill prior to the Memorial Day recess. He added that he hopes to move a bill through his subcommittee next month.

Upton and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton, (R-TX), met last week with Energy and Commerce ranking member John Dingell, (D-MI), and Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee ranking member Edward Markey, (D-MA), in the hope of reaching a bipartisan consensus on the DTV legislation. It marked at least the third meeting that the four have held this month on the matter.

Upton declined to comment on whether they have agreed on a hard date by which broadcasters would be required to return all channels on the analog spectrum to the federal government, or whether that deadline would include exceptions for certain markets.

He acknowledged that the lawmakers are still negotiating on the issue of how to design a subsidy program that would provide set-top converter boxes for lower-income with analog TV sets.

While a hard date of Dec. 31, 2006 has been supported previously by Congressional leaders, Barton’s Senate counterpart, Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens, (R-AK) said last week that a 2006 deadline would be unworkable, in part because most Americans still do not own digital televisions.