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Public TV Launches Four DTV Nets

Ten months after the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) signed a digital TV carriage deal with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), public broadcasters announced the launch of four digital TV programming services.

The "Public Television Digital Cable Carriage Agreement" aims to ensure that local public TV stations' digital programming will be carried on cable systems. Ninety eight percent of U.S. households are covered by the digital TV carriage deal, according to APTS.

"If we do it right, public television can have an even greater impact on American society in the digital age than we've been able to achieve in the one-channel, analog world," said APTS CEO John Lawson, who noted that Senate and House Commerce Committees may, in the next week or so, begin marking up long-awaited DTV legislation that could include the subsidizing of low-cost digital to analog converter boxes after the analog signal is shut off.

"I've testified that Congress will have to spend less on set-top box subsidies-and a 'hard date' will have a greater chance of success--if consumers are provided reasons actually to purchase the boxes in the marketplace with their own dollars," he said.

Four new DTV networks--Viva!, a Spanish-language channel due to launch mid-2006, World, a place for NOVA, Frontline and other factual programs, do-it-yourself network Create and PBS Kids Go! for the tween set--are going to launch in at different times in 2006. The expansion of a fifth network, PBS HD is also on the menu. PBS HD offers 415 hours of original programming per year and will increase this based on member stations' commitment to fund new content exclusively for PBS HD.