Last-minute legislative push would force broadcasters to give up spectrum early

A legislative proposal that would force some television broadcasters to give up their analog spectrum early for emergency use has gotten a last minute year-end push in Congress.

Reps. Jane Harman (D-CA), and Curt Weldon (R-PA) urged House Speaker Dennis Hastert, (R-IL), to schedule a floor vote on the Homeland Emergency Response Operations (HERO) Act, introduced by Harman April 14, 2005, the National Journal reported.

The legislation, with 38 co-sponsors, would require broadcasters operating on channels 63, 64, 68 and 69, to vacate the frequencies by Jan. 1, 2007. The proposal, contained in a letter to Hastert, is meeting with resistance from The Walt Disney Co., Viacom/CBS, Univision, Paxson Communications and other broadcasters whose stations would be knocked off the air.

The legislators were pressuring Hastert to get the bill on the suspension calendar — which requires a two-thirds majority for passage — before Congress leaves for the year.

Harman told the National Journal that she supports amending the pending budget reconciliation package with her language. Reconciliation bill conferees will seek to reconcile the House’s proposal of a Dec. 31, 2008, hard date for transitioning broadcasters from analog to digital with the Senate-recommended April 1, 2009, date.

Harman, ranking member on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, blamed the emergency communications situation on broadcasters who refuse to move and said they would rue the day if another major tragedy occurs and emergency personnel cannot communicate effectively.

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