Foes Put Sights On DTV Date

Opposition appears to be building to a Republican plan to set a "hard date" for the nation's broadcasters to turn off their analog TV signals as members of a key House panel expressed concern over the

WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Opposition appears to be building to a Republican plan to set a "hard date" for the nation's broadcasters to turn off their analog TV signals as members of a key House panel expressed concern over the idea.

Some members of the House Commerce Committee's telecommunications subcommittee warned of the consequences a shut-off date could engender.

"Congress is a stimulus-response organism," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., during a hearing on the issue. "And nothing is more stimulating than millions of consumers demanding to know why they can't watch their favorite show on Sunday."

House Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, plans to introduce legislation requiring broadcasters to cease analog transmissions and broadcast using only their digital frequencies. Barton prefers that the hard date fall on Jan. 31, a date that is already in the law.

Currently, broadcasters are required to stop analog transmissions at the end of next year, 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.

Many lawmakers were unsure how the cutoff would work, how it would be administered and how the 20 million people who depend solely on over-the-air broadcasts and 75 million analog TV sets would be treated.

In order to minimize the disruption, several congressmen, including Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Barton, have suggested having the government pay for converters for the neediest. Boucher suggested issuing a voucher for the converters.

Electronics manufacturer LG executive VP Jong Kim said a digital-to-analog converter box initially would cost about $100, but the price likely was to fall into the $50-$70 range. Most proposals intend to pay for the boxes from revenue generated when the analog frequencies are auctioned after the transmission is complete.

Questions about the cost and the administration of a new program dominated much of the discussion.

Despite the opposition and the questions, Barton said he plans to push ahead, and he urged committee members to support his legislation.

But with fear of political retribution from millions of people whose TV suddenly doesn't work unless they buy another black box, that could be difficult.


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