The new analog cut-off date noted in a draft bill on Capitol Hill is April 7, 2009.
The date is a compromise time frame between Jan. 1, 2009 and late summer of 2009, although Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) reportedly plans to offer an amendment to continue to push for a cut-off by 2007 or even 2006, so that emergency first responders can obtain broadcast spectrum. It's been pointed out by some observers that the pending compromise date may have been determined by the fact that the high-rated March Madness college basketball tournament comes in (surprise) March, while the all-important sweeps month would be looming in May of that year. But no one knows for sure whether any of this actually affected the selection of the newly proposed date.
If eventually passed by both houses intact, and signed by the president, the measure would specify the April 2009 date for when broadcasters would have to pull the plug on all analog transmissions. Included in the draft (at least indirectly, via earmarked dedicated funds to the treasury) is a $4.8 billion "Digital Transition and Public Safety Fund," a portion of which could be used to help subsidize digital-to-analog converter boxes (see related story in this edition, and HD Notebook, Oct. 12, 2005).
The draft language reportedly does not deal with DTV multicast must carry or cable conversion of digital signals. Such issues, according to the NAB, are expected to be taken up in a separate bill or bills. The Senate committee plans to mark up the hard-date bill, (along with a trio of other media measures) on Oct. 20 (originally scheduled for Oct. 19).
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