The Bush White House is pressing ahead with plans to tax commercial TV
stations $500 million per year for failing to complete the digital-TV transition
by Dec. 31, 2006.
According to the White House budget proposal, released Monday, the Federal
Communications Commission would be authorized to collect the $500 million from
TV stations that continue to broadcast on their analog channels in 2007.
The budget document, describing the proposal as an "analog-spectrum-lease
fee," said collecting the money was necessary to clear the analog channels and
compensate taxpayers for the use of scarce resources.
Under the White House plan, TV stations could avoid paying the spectrum fee
if they return their analog licenses Dec. 31, 2006.
However, TV stations are unlikely to surrender their analog licenses until at
least 85 percent of households in a given market have purchased digital-TV sets
or digital-to-analog converter boxes.
The administration forwarded a similar plan last year, but Congress refused
to embrace it in the face of strong opposition from the National Association of
Broadcasters and the major TV networks.
"Free, over-the-air broadcasters are doing everything possible to complete the transition to digital, as evidenced by the 733 local stations that have made the switch to DTV," NAB president and CEO Edward O. Fritts said in a prepared statement.
"Broadcasters should not be saddled with an unfair spectrum tax, which would ultimately slow the transition to digital and harm consumers who rely on local stations for high-quality news, information and entertainment programming," he added.
The Clinton White House also failed to obtain spectrum-fee