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Differences between House Democrats and Republicans over funding of a DTV converter box subsidy could delay setting a hard date for analog switch-off of over-the-air TV service, according to Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA).

During a C-SPAN interview Dec. 4, Markey said a delay of the hard date from Dec. 31, 2008, is easy to envision given the disagreement over the digital-to-analog converter subsidy plan.

The Senate has already settled on a generous program that would subsidize the purchase of converters with $3 billion set aside from the proceeds of auctioning off spectrum currently used for analog TV transmission. The House version is much more restrictive, setting aside about $960 million and requiring consumers purchasing converters to apply for a rebate.

Markey and Rep John Dingell (D-MI), who sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, are leaders in the party’s push for a more generous subsidy. Markey envisions consumer anger over the shut-off of analog service without a program that is big enough for all over-the-air viewers. The Senate version of the DTV legislation calls for an April 7, 2009, cessation of analog transmission. The differences between House and Senate versions are expected to be reconciled in a conference committee. However, Markey’s comments throw into question the ultimate deadline.

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