Washington, DC (December 20, 2005)-A $40 billion deficit-reduction bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 19 includes a final deadline for the transition to digital television. Assuming the Senate passes the bill later in the week and sends it on to President Bush, analog television sets will be obsolete come February 17, 2009.
The bill, the result of a deal negotiated by Senate and House Republicans, sets aside $1.5 billion to help consumers cover the cost of the necessary digital-to-analog conversion boxes. Each household may apply for two $40 vouchers to help pay for the boxes; industry estimates suggest that the price per box will be $50. The fund is intended for the 73 million consumers currently receiving analog over-the-air signals, and especially the 21 million homes that do not receive cable or satellite services.
The transition date had originally been set for the last day of 2006, when it was expected that 85 percent of the country could watch digital broadcasts, but slow sales of digital TV sets caused Congress to reconsider the deadline. The government expects to receive $10 billion from auctioning off the current analog frequency spectrum, some of which will be given over to emergency services, particularly in light of the reported communications problems during Hurricane Katrina and the September 11 attacks.
In a published statement, National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO, David Rehr, declared, “NAB is pleased that the House included many pro-consumer DTV provisions in the budget reconciliation bill. We are especially encouraged that the legislation thwarts the cable industry’s desire to degrade delivery of HDTV pictures to consumers. We strongly urge Senate adoption of this legislation.”
National Association of Broadcasters