The chairman of the House Commerce Committee is renewing his push for legislation that would set a "hard date" that would force broadcasters to shut off their current analog channels.
LAS VEGAS (The Hollywood Reporter) -- The chairman of the House Commerce Committee is renewing his push for legislation that would set a "hard date" that would force broadcasters to shut off their current analog channels.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, told the National Association of Broadcasters during their annual meeting here that a "do nothing solution" was not going to work.
Broadcaster "concerns" run deep, however. NAB president/CEO Edward Fritts, giving his last state of the industry address before his retirement, said the industry was prepared for a long battle.
"Broadcasters are doing their job, but it's easy to understand why a premature cutoff of analog broadcasting could lead to total marketplace confusion," he said. "I think it will be many months before final legislation on this matter is considered."
Barton wants to cut off analog broadcasts by the end of next year. Those frequencies would then be auctioned to the highest bidder for other telecommunications services or would be given to public safety officials.
"Let's get on with the business of making this country the best broadband, digitally accessible country in the world," he said.
Currently, the law says analog broadcasts have to end by 2006, or until 85% of the TV-viewing public receives a digital television signal, which ever comes first. Barton and other critics think the 85% threshold is an impossible one to reach.
While Barton has said he wants to cut off the analog signals, he was willing to give a little on the date. It was unclear exactly how far as he would only say that adding three years was too much.
Despite misgivings about shutting off the analog signal by rank-and-file members of the House Commerce Committee, Barton claimed to have the votes.
"We have the votes in the House. We have the votes in the committee. If we could get it to the floor of the Senate without a filibuster, I think we have the votes there," he said, adding that pressure is mounting to get the digital TV transition over with.
"Walk through this, look who's for this," he said. "The first responder groups. The retail groups. The consumer electronics group. The manufacturing groups. The Intel group. Even the broadcasters don't say they're against it. They just have these concerns. When push comes to shove the votes will be there."