Lawmakers Urge Phased-In Translator Deadline

A baker's dozen of lawmakers signed an entreaty to the leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asking that they bear in mind the predicament of rural broadcasters as a hard analog shut-off date is sought. Those signing the letter to Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) and John Dingell (D-Mich.), ranking member, represented Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, Arizona and Nevada.

It described how many rural broadcasters rely on translators to cover their service areas.

"A significant number of translators are located in small towns and can only be accessed via mountainous terrain during select months out of the year," the letter stated. "More than 4,700 translators are positioned around the nation and almost 80 percent of these are in western, mountainous states. Hard-to-access terrain adds to the cost of upgrading translator equipment, which is a heavy burden for small broadcast markets."

In addition, the FCC hasn't issued secondary digital frequencies for translators, and until it does, the appropriate equipment for taking them digital cannot be obtained, it said.

"We hope that you will consider phasing-in the transfer deadline or exploring other options to assist smaller broadcast markets as digital television transition policy is developed in your committee."

Barton is pushing a Dec. 31, 2006 deadline, and draft legislation to that effect is expected to turn up on Capitol Hill next week.