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Legislation Introduced to Protect Border Stations

TV stations along the Texas-Mexico border may be exempt from shutting off their analog signals on Feb. 17, 2009 if a U.S. Senator from Texas gets her way.

Just before Christmas, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced legislation to allow broadcasters within 50 miles of the Texas-Mexico border to continue broadcasting analog signals for up to five years if permitted by the FCC. The “Digital Television Border Fix Act” (S. 2507), cosponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), addresses the unique challenges for U.S. citizens along the U.S.-Mexico border who could continue to receive analog TV signals from Mexican broadcasters (who are not required to go digital), and as a consequence, may elect not to purchase a DTV converter to continue receiving digital signals from U.S. broadcasters. In particular, Hutchison is concerned that those viewers will not receive public safety information from Texas broadcasters.

“The legislation will ensure that Texans living along the border will not lose access to public safety communication message sent through television stations,” the senator said. The legislation would most affect the Texas cities of Laredo, McAllen and El Paso.

While the legislation would allow broadcasters to continue broadcasting in analog for up to five years, it would not undercut the FCC’s authority to deny stations in the affected area the ability to simulcast in both analog and digital if it does not serve the public interest. Since the number of stations affected by the proposed legislation is limited, Hutchison said the rule, if adopted, would not interfere with recovery and auction of the analog spectrum and would still give the FCC the flexibility to deny analog broadcasting privileges to any domestic station that caused interference with a full-power DTV station after the transition.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.