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Senate 180s on DTV Delay

Stalled DTV transition-delay legislation in the Senate is getting nudged loose, wire reports indicate. Lawmakers on the commerce committee are coming together on how to handle the Feb. 17 deadline with so many U.S. households unprepared for the transition. The Nielsen Co. yesterday said that around 6.5 million homes would lose TV if analog transmitters were shut down now.

Wire reports out of Washington indicate that Senate Democrats and Republicans compromised on legislation that give stations until June 12 to shut down, but allow them to do so earlier if they’re ready. (Conceptualized in DTV Deadline: The Middle Way.) Republicans last week blocked a bill proposed by Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), to move the deadline to June 12. Democrats started agitating for a delay after the federal government ran out of money to subsidize digital-to-analog converter boxes earlier this month. Fearful of public backlash, the Obama Administration transition team fired off a couple of letters in support of the delay, and viola! Proposed legislation appeared, and while the House was initially ready to proceed with it, Republicans in the Senate said, “not so fast.” House Dems then backed off as well.

Republicans were concerned that moving the deadline would further confuse a public already trying to figure out what Big Brother is doing to their TV sets. FCC commissioners have been traveling the country saying Feb. 17 is the shutdown date. Public Service Announcements to that effect have been all over television, as per a federal directive. Newspapers and online media outlets have been carrying the story for months, and retailers hawking converter boxes often are laden with Feb. 17 deadline signage.

Rockefeller has reportedly amended his earlier bill to accommodate GOP concerns, winning the support of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the ranking Republican on the commerce committee.