Senate Also Seeks December 2008 Analog Cutoff

The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said he sees no controversial issues arising out of pending legislation in both houses that would, among other things, extend the mandatory cutoff of all analog broadcast signals by two years. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) will introduce his version of a transition deadline scenario within a few weeks, according to published reports, and he predicts it will sail through Congress and be ready for the President's signature by October.

Steven's counterpart, House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, has his own analog cut-off bill that stipulates Jan. 1, 2009, as the first day that broadcasters would be allowed to transmit only their digital signals (HD Notebook, June 1, 2005). Sen. Stevens' Senate measure--outlined at a luncheon of communication lawyers in Washington--uses that same cut-off date, which would represent a 24-month delay of the current effective date for all analog broadcasting to cease.

Both House and Senate measures have provisions for helping to ensure that no viewers are left in the dark. Converters for remaining analog sets to retrieve digital content would be partially subsidized--most likely from federal funds raised by auctioning off the newly acquired analog spectrum. Although the Stevens and Barton bills are expected to be very similar, any pending differences would have to be reconciled by a House-Senate conference committee, prior to any final floor votes.