Congress Will Not Delay DTV Transition

Jackie Smith, KACV-TV Program Operations Director
Jackie Smith, KACV-TV Program Operations Director

Local television station KACV was concerned their old analog equipment would give out before the digital television switch-over.

"We have been nursing that stuff along in the hopes that when the transition gets here it will last that long," said Jackie Smith, KACV-TV Program Operations Director.

The Obama administration wanted to extend the wait and delay the conversion until June 12--four months from the original deadline.

"That will give the federal government that mandated this transition in 2005 the time they need to fix the many problems going forward," said Joel Kelsey, Consumers Union.

The U.S. Senate voted unanimously on Monday Jan. 26 to postpone next month's deadline, which would cut of all analog broadcasts in the U.S. But House members killed the bill this afternoon, with a 258-168 vote . They said postponing the current switch would confuse consumers and create added costs for television stations.

Advocates for the bill said such a transition would be worth the wait.

"We are trying to protect the 10 million plus consumers out there who will lose access to emergency broadcast news," Kelsey said.

The Nielsen Co. reports more than 6.5 million American households could lose TV entirely if the transition is not delayed.

President Barack Obama called for the delay earlier this month when the government coupon program ran out of money; leaving more than 2.6 million people on a waiting list to get a digital converter box.

"Consumers didn't ask for the transition," Kelsey said. "And now they are asking them to pay for it. It's irresponsible to us in this economic climate."

Other organizations said the bill would have created more financial problems than fixes. The Texas Broadcasters Association estimates stations in Texas would have had to spend at least $14 million in electricity alone.

"There's the day to day expenses to keep more than what you need to get your signal out," Smith said about the costs to keep their analog service.

The Public Broadcasting Service said the delay would have cost television stations about $22 million to keep their analog equipment running.

Smith says they just hope their analog equipment will hold on, at least to February 17.