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Chris Llana, Editor


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Senate DTV Bill Markup

October 18 - 20, 2005

The Senate Commerce Committee DTV-transition bill markup session has been postponed from October 19 to the 20th. The Committee meeting will be public and will be webcast. Follow this link.

Action on the House DTV bill has also been delayed. Controversy tends to push things out to the last possible moment (and then some).

UPDATE Senator Stevens gave a speech before the Free Enterprise Fund Symposium on Wednesday (10/19) describing the status of the DTV transition bill.

He said the bill was distributed to the Committee yesterday (the 18th) and that Committee members had until 11:00 a.m. today (the 19th) to submit amendments. The Committee mark-up of the bill is on the 20th, and then it goes to the Budget Committee which will mark up the larger budget bill next week (Oct. 24-28). Stevens hoped that the Senate-House conference on the DTV transition bill would be completed by Thanksgiving (to reconcile those differences).

Because the Byrd rule excludes non-budget provisions from the budget reconciliation bill, there will have to be another DTV transition bill to include those items (eg. issues of multicasting, and downconversion from digital to analog for cable distribution, etc.).

This second bill will not proceed simultaneously with the budget bill, but will move forward "later, if possible." Stevens described "shouting matches" over the last few days, but opined that after the DTV budget bill is passed, he thought that "there will be general agreement that [the second bill] ought to be passed this year."

Regarding specific provisions that will be addressed:

The hard analog shut-off date: his bill says April 7, 2009, to put it after "NCAA finals" and "football games" which seem to be a convenient pretense, because his tone was more serious when he referred to CBO estimates that revenue from the auction of returned spectrum would bring $10 billion in 2009 but much less in 2007, which date Senator McCain is proposing.

And of course the National Association of Broadcasters would like the later date. And, he added, the later the analog shut-off date, the less the need for digital-to-analog set-top converter boxes.

His bill would provide $3 billion for D/A STB subsidies (an estimated 60 million of them). His bill would require a $10 co-pay for any consumer who wanted one for his/her analog TV (one per person).

Stevens said he wanted a consumer education program to go into effect immediately, including the labeling of analog TVs. There would be a 2007 digital tuner mandate (he didn't say when in 2007).

Thursday 10/20 UPDATE The Senate Commerce Committee approved the DTV Transition bill with relevant provisions as presented by Senator Stevens in his speech (see above). For whatever reasons, the webcast was not available and the post-meeting video streaming record of the meeting was also not offered. This may change. Perhaps something to do with the "shouting matches" and the lack of apparent compromise on the analog shut-off date.

I will relate any forthcoming reports from people who were there in person.

The next thing is to see what the House Enerrgy and Commerce Committee comes up with next week (?). Rep. Barton is certainly more disposed to an earlier date than Stevens.