Solis introduces legislation to extend DTV transition along border

Congressional efforts to allow full-power television stations to continue transmitting analog TV five years beyond Feb. 17, 2009, received a boost last week when Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) introduced legislation in the House matching legislation pending in the Senate.

Solis, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee whose 32nd Congressional district of California includes East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, said the DTV Border Fix Act is intended to ensure that those living in border areas continue to receive EAS and AMBER Alert messages beyond February 2009. While DTV standards accommodate both, the high proportion of over-the-air viewers in these areas as well as the large number of English-as-second-language viewers could mean large numbers of viewers will be cut off from emergency information with the transition.

According to the Congresswoman, “not all regions are prepared for the digital television transition, risking access to this information.” Under the legislation, the would FCC continue to have the authority to deny full-power stations along the border the right to simulcast in analog and digital if doing so doesn’t serve the public interest.

In December 2007, Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced S. 2507, the companion bill in the Senate.

Writing on her Web site last week, Senator Hutchinson acknowledged that the DTV transition “poses special challenges for border communities.” While nationally the percentage of OTA viewers hovers in the 13 percent range, in Texas the number exceeds 20 percent, she wrote.