Obama signs DTV delay

President Barack Obama signed into law Feb. 11 a measure delaying the nation’s transition to digital television until June 12.

The delay is intended to give the public more time to prepare for the end of analog transmission. Recent figures from The Nielsen Company reveal that as of the beginning of February, 5.8 million households have taken no steps to prepare.

The postponement also gives the government more time to sort through the problems with the DTV converter box coupon program. In January, the federal agency responsible for administering the program announced it had run out of funds allocated by Congress for the $40 coupons and would begin putting people on a waiting list, which has swelled to more than 3 million.

In the weeks leading up to taking office, the incoming Obama administration asked for the delay. The Senate responded with a bipartisan measure passed unanimously. Passage in the House proved more troublesome, but a second effort Feb. 4 saw passage of the bill to delay the DTV transition until June 12.

The FCC, under the leadership of Acting Chairman Michael Copps responded by giving stations four days to notify it of their intentions to cease over-the-air analog service on Feb. 17. Since then, the commission has given 368 full-power TV stations permission to do so. Another 123 stations seeking permission were denied but have the chance to halt analog service Feb. 17 if they certify they have met several conditions.