The Senate on Nov. 3 narrowly approved a massive budget reduction measure that will end the nation's venerable analog broadcasting service on April 7, 2009.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Hollywood Reporter) -- The Senate on Nov. 3 narrowly approved a massive budget reduction measure that will end the nation's venerable analog broadcasting service on April 7, 2009.

The bill passed by a 52-47 vote. The Senate bill is estimated to trim $34 billion from budget deficits totaling $1.6 trillion over five years -- just 2%. For the plan's first year, with deficits predicted to exceed $300 billion, the cuts total $6 billion.
In addition to raising revenue from auctioning broadcasters' current analog frequencies and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it would make cuts to the health care programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

Auctioning the analog TV channels is expected to bring in at least $10 billion and could bring in as much as $30 billion.

Not all of the auction proceeds would go toward deficit reduction, as $3 billion is earmarked to help consumers purchase digital-analog converter boxes.

Another $2 billion is earmarked to ease problems law enforcement and other emergency personnel have in communicating among themselves, aid hurricane relief efforts and pay for other programs.

The legislation must now be approved by the House, which passed a different version of the DTV provisions and the overall bill.

Attempts by some senators to decrease the amount of money funding the converter box subsidy and speeding up the date for the end of analog TV broadcasts were defeated on Nov. 3.

Currently, broadcasters are required to stop analog transmissions at the end of 2006, or when 85% of the American TV viewing audience receives a digital signal, whichever comes later. The 85% number has long been considered an unreachable goal. The National Assn. of Broadcasters contend that there are 73 million television sets in use in that rely on free, over-the-air broadcasting as their only source for TV reception. A recent study by the GAO found that 20.5 million TV households rely exclusively on over-the-air TV reception.

On the same day the Senate voted to turn off the analog TV signal, the FCC moved up by four months the deadline for set manufacturers to include a DTV tuner in TV sets smaller than 24 inches. The date was moved from July 1, 2007, to March 1, 2007.

A similar regulation already applies to sets larger than 24 inches.