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Chris Llana, Editor


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Senate Delays Action on DTV Bill

September 16, 2005 . . . updated 9/17/05

The Senate Commerce Committee has put off until October 19 final action on its digital TV transition bill. That bill was to have been completed today in time for submission to the Senate Budget Committee. (It would go to the Budget Committee because the sale of part of the radio spectrum that will be freed up at the end of the transition is expected to bring billions of dollars into the U.S. treasury. Those new funds will need to be accounted for in budget projections.)

But the Budget Committee delayed action on the budget reconciliation bill so that the Senate would have more time to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

No word yet on whether the House of Representatives is going to delay its budget bill, or its DTV transition bill, but expect them to follow the Senate's lead. For the immediate future, expect the man driving DTV legislation in the House (Congressman Joe Barton, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee) to be out of town. Barton and his wife are giving birth to a new baby and he is on his way back to Texas for that event (if not already there). Congratulations, Joe!

Senator McCain on September 13 issued a press release and made a statement on the Senate floor calling for timely Congressional action on a DTV bill to provide public safety agencies with additional radio spectrum. Specifically, he is calling for the existing statutory analog TV cut-off date (end-2006) to be retained, freeing up new frequencies at the earliest possible time for emergency response use. Those frequencies are now being used by TV broadcasters to support continued analog/NTSC transmissions.

The DTV transition bill he introduced this summer had adopted the end-2008 date as a compromise measure, but the lack of coordination in the response to hurricane Katrina changed all of that. The radio equipment used by local, state, and federal agencies did not have the necessary common frequencies to enable those agencies to talk to each other.

McCain also seems to be a little miffed (with good cause) at Congressional procrastination in finalizing details of the transition to the ATSC/digital television standard.