Senate Commerce Chairman predicts passage of DTV bill in September

Senate Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens, (R-AK), predicted last week that new digital television legislation will reach a House-Senate conference committee this summer —with the final passage by the full Congress possible as early as September.

He said he has the commitment now from both parties to pass the bill this year.

The Senate leader also predicted that the legislation would have bipartisan support.

Currently, Stevens backs a Jan. 1, 2009 deadline for the nation’s transition to digital broadcasts, a day later than the Dec. 31, 2008 hard date in the draft House bill. Nevertheless, Stevens suggested that the date might not hold, referring to some lawmakers who want to set it earlier.

Stevens has advocated requiring television set manufacturers to include labels on all new analog sets warning that analog signals will cease on a certain date and that digital converters would be needed afterwards.

The most difficult remaining issue, Stevens said, is determining who helps those families relying on over-the-air broadcasts.

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