DTV Bill Awaits President’s Signature

With the legal DTV transition one week away, the president has yet to sign the bill that would allow stations to continue analog transmissions into June. The bill, passed by the House and Senate Feb. 4, provides a four-month window for TV stations to end analog transmissions, easing the impact of the previous hard shut-down date of Feb. 17. The DTV Delay Act places the final hard date at June 12.

The president’s transition team called for a delay even before Barack Obama took the oath of office. The incoming administration was concerned that too many people were unprepared for the transition, and would lose TV reception. The federal subsidy program offering $40 coupons for digital-to-analog converter boxes also ran out of money in early January, resulting in millions of requests being put on a waiting list.

Nielsen estimates suggest about 5 million homes would lose TV reception if all analog transmissions were ended today. The original, and current, end date is one week from today.

Republicans balked at the delay, but agreed to support a bill that allowed TV stations to transition on Feb. 17 or delay as far out as June. 12. Many stations, long having planned to shut down Feb. 17, are still shooting for that date. Many published reports indicate that about half of the 1,600 or so full-power TV stations in the country will end analog transmissions on that day. The Big Four TV networks have announced they would continue analog operations at their 63 stations through June. 12.