DTV legislation has 80 percent chance of passage by Congress

Congress appears committed to passing legislation by the end of the year to set a date for analog broadcasts to cease

There’s an 80 percent chance that the Congress will pass legislation this year establishing a hard deadline to end the DTV transition, the National Journal reported.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton, (R-TX), made a strong case that Congress needs to set a fixed date for completing the transition to digital television, the publication said. Public safety, consumers, wireless companies and TV manufacturers cannot make plans without a hard date. Barton wants that hard date to be Dec. 31, 2008.

House Republican leaders urged Barton to delay a markup of his draft legislation until September. But Barton scored an ally when Senate Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens, (R-AK), voiced support for an analog broadcast cutoff one day later. The NAB now said it could live with a hard date, as long as Congress includes a subsidy so consumers can get low-cost set-top converter boxes.

The size of that subsidy is the focus of debate, and insiders believe a deal will be struck.

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