Pols Press For Digital TV Switch

As part of the legislation overhauling the nation's intelligence agencies, lawmakers were expected to include a "Sense of the Congress" resolution expressing their desire that broadcasters vacate TV c

WASHINGTON, D.Ç. (The Hollywood Reporter) -- As part of the legislation overhauling the nation's intelligence agencies, lawmakers were expected to include a "Sense of the Congress" resolution expressing their desire that broadcasters vacate TV channels they use now and broadcast solely on their digital channels, according to congressional and industry sources.

While broadcast industry lobbyists and their allies in Congress beat back a proposal that would have forced them to vacate TV channels 63, 64, 68 and 69 by 2008 for public safety uses, the nonbinding resolution signals the growing concern lawmakers have with the pace of the digital transition.

The resolution's primary author, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairs the House Commerce Committee and has said he is committed to getting the analog channels back.

The resolution would "require broadcasters to cease analog transmissions by Dec. 31, 2006, so that the spectrum can be returned and repurposed for important public-safety and advanced commercial uses."

Under a timetable established by Congress in 1997, broadcasters are required to turn off their analog signals in 2006 or when 85% of the American TV audience is able to view a digital TV signal.

The vote Dec. 7 also was likely to doom efforts for legislation that would make it a federal crime to camcord a movie and indemnify from liability manufacturers of video players that edit purportedly offensive content from movies.

The copyright legislation was expected to fall short as time expired and lawmakers fought over other provisions that they wanted to add to the bill dealing with boxing reform and spyware. The legislation would also make it easier for law enforcement officials to pursue copyright pirates who make works available before they are released to the public -- something much sought after by both the studios and the record industry.

Both the Senate and the House had overwhelmingly approved versions of the legislation, but last-minute changes meant that both chambers had to approve a new version of the bill. The Senate did, but the House didn't.

It seemed highly unlikely that lawmakers would deal with any legislation outside of intelligence reform in the second lame-duck session of the 108th Congress.

Copyright company executives said they plan to come back in the 109th Congress and try to get the legislation approved.

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