Bill does not include a 'broadcast flag.'

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce approved bipartisan legislation Oct. 26 that would set the deadline for the digital TV transition at Dec. 31, 2008.

Efforts by the Hollywood and music industries to add sections to the bill that would call for a “broadcast flag” and a similar technology to prevent automatic “cherry-pick” audio copying on digital radio, were not included.

However, chairman Joe Barton, R-Tex. told a half-dozen committee supporters such as Rep. Mary Bono, D-Cal. that he would “consider” pushing for copy-limit technology in a subsequent bill.

The committee approved the legislation in a convincing 33-17 vote. The legislation will also include a $1 billion program to fund digital-to-analog converter boxes so no one will be left behind in the transition.

The bill also mandates that all new televisions of 13 inches or more must include a digital tuner by March 1, 2007. The deadline for larger sets is earlier. Television sets manufactured without digital tuners must have warning labels regarding their inability to receive digital television programming.

Freeing analog spectrum would also fulfill Congress's promise to first responders in emergencies to provide 24 MHz more sprectrum space.

A Senate companion bill calls for an April 1, 2009 deadline and a $3 billion converter-box subsidy. Both bills now go before the Senate and House for a vote. If they pass, both versions must be reconciled in conference.