WASHINGTON Draft legislation proposed by the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee would require broadcasters to cease analog TV broadcasts by Dec. 31, 2008.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said he plans to begin hearings on his DTV transition proposal on Thursday (May 26). A key goal is to turn over valuable spectrum for public-safety and other uses. The returned spectrum is also expected to generate millions of dollars in auction revenues.
"The benefits of adopting a date certain are numerous and significant," Barton said in a statement. "For years, our first responders have had to make do with antiquated radio equipment while waiting for the airwaves they were promised."
The draft proposal would require the Federal Communications Commission to issue final digital channel assignments by the end of 2006. It would also require TV manufacturers and retailers to inform customers that analog sets will require links to a digital receiver, analog-to-digital converters or digital cable services to continue receiving broadcasts after the December 2008 deadline.
Under the proposal, cable operators would be required to carry primary broadcast signals in a broadcast format.
The Information Technology Industry Council, whose members include Intel Corp., Cisco Systems and PC makers, praised the draft legislation. "The most important thing about this draft is that it starts the clock ticking for broadcasters to free up spectrum for better uses," the group said in a statement.
Broadcasters have denied claims by set manufacturers that they are holding up the DTV transition in order to hang on to valuable spectrum. "The reality is that broadcasters have billions of dollars of stranded capital in this transition," Edward Fritts, president and CEO of the National Broadcasters Association, stated in a May 12 letter to Barton.