Senate votes to delay DTV deadline; House to move this week

The U.S. Senate Monday night voted to postpone the DTV transition deadline till June 12, giving analog TV viewers who haven’t acquired a new DTV or digital converter box and additional four months to get ready.

The House is expected to vote on the extension this week, and despite opposition from some leading Republicans, pass a similar measure. In the weeks leading up to the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration, the incoming Obama administration asked Congress to postpone the Feb. 17 DTV transition deadline.

On Jan. 23, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, announced that he had reached a bipartisan compromise with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, ranking member of the committee, to postpone the deadline. (Editor’s note: “See Key senators reach bipartisan compromise on bill to delay DTV transition.”)

Rockefeller has been critical of the DTV converter box coupon program being run by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. As of last week, the agency said more than 2 million people were on waiting lists for coupons.

Reached for comment Tuesday, David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television, said he expects House passage this week as well. “The vote affords consumers the opportunity to get a converter box,” he said. “Stations are ready, willing and able to move on the DTV transition. Now they face the prospect of waiting 116 days to make the transition.”

According to Donovan, about 88 stations have already made the DTV transition and shutoff their analog transmitters. He does not expect them to restart analog transmission if the delay becomes law.