House Approves DTV Delay
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