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House Approves DTV Delay

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday blessed a bill that will postpone the "hard" digital TV transition date from Feb. 17 to June 12, a move that gives broadcasters some wiggle room on when they can flip the switch.

The House voted against an earlier version of the bill last week that also aimed to extend the transition for an additional four months. (See Kill Bill 3 .) The Senate has voted in favor of it twice. (See DTV Delay: Game Still On .)

The bill's next stop will be the desk of President Barack Obama, who has been in favor of the delay from the get-go.

Once it has the final seal of approval, the delay will allow full-power broadcasters to switch to digital transmission any time between Feb. 17 and June 12. Those against the bill have argued that a postponement of the hard date will cause more consumer confusion, because the original cutoff date has been touted ad nauseam in TV spots, Websites, and printed materials for more about a year and a half.

Acting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Michael Copps told Congress earlier this week that 61 percent of full power stations – 1,089 of them -- could switch to digital by the original Feb. 17 date without any expected problem.

Copps, who has been in favor of a delay, cheered today's vote because it allows for an "urgently-needed" phased transition and fixes significant funding and consumer waiting list problems tied to the government-subsidized converter box coupon program.

"It has long been clear to me -- and it's even clearer since I became Acting FCC Chairman two weeks ago -- that the country is not prepared to undertake a nationwide transition in twelve days without unacceptably high consumer dislocation," he said, in a statement.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell also praised the bill, but said it's important for everyone to stop procrastinating, or in government speak, to "stay on message: if you need a converter box, get it today and hook it up today and start enjoying the benefits of digital television today.”

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) declined comment on today's vote, but has already indicated that U.S. cable operators are prepared for the transition whether Feb. 17 remained the hard date or if a delay was approved. (See NCTA: Delay or No Delay, Cable's Ready .) Most MSOs are subject to a mandate requiring them to deliver "must-carry" TV stations in digital and analog format after the transition. Additionally, the industry has taken the lead on a $20 million national call center initiative to help consumers handle the transition. (See FCC OKs Dual TV Carriage Rules.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

paulej 12/5/2012 | 4:12:28 PM
re: House Approves DTV Delay If we are not ready already, we will never be ready. It isn't as if it was decided last week that we will make this transition this month. It has been a decision that has been long-time coming. Anybody who is not aware of it will not suddenly learn this in March, unless we turn of existing service.

Further, just how many people are truly impacted by this, anyway? How many people would be "dislocated"? And, just how many days would it take them to figure out why the tube isn't working anymore? And who cares if it took a few days or weeks? It might actually encourage a few people to take up more intellectually challenging hobbies.
Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:12:26 PM
re: House Approves DTV Delay I agree that no matter what, there will be plenty of consumers out there who won't be ready, whether the transition takes place for them on Feb. 17 or sometime before June 12. I personally don't think extending the hard deadline is going to do all that much good or make things better on a quantum leap level between now and June 12. I agree with the folks who think extending the deadline is going to cause even more confusion....because now the transition is a moving target for some markets and for some stations. Hopefully the bcasters in a given market go out of their way to coordinate the switchover date so a market doesn't end up with ABC making the switch on Feb. 17 while the local NBC and CBS stations decide to do it at a later date.
HEre in Denver, the local ABC affiliate ran a crawl warning viewers that they're going to stick with Feb. 17, giving over-the-air viewers fair warning that the June 12 extension won't apply in their particular case. Jeff
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