Capps Bill Would Postpone Analog Recovery

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Washington—Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) is close to introducing the first House bill that would postpone the federal government’s recovery of all analog TV spectrum on Feb. 17, 2009.

Capps, a member the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would require the Federal Communications Commission to develop a market-by-market plan to make analog TV service available until March 3, 2009.

The bill would give the FCC latitude to require at least one analog TV station per-market to stay on the air for an additional two weeks. In some cases, the FCC could allow one powerful analog TV station to serve two adjacent markets.

The FCC’s program, to be drafted no later than Jan.15, 2009, would ensure that the analog station transmitted emergency information as well information about the digital TV transition. Capps, whose district is 41% Hispanic, would mandate DTV transition information be broadcast in both English and Spanish.

"It's an intriguing idea. Our TV board will be discussing it in the very near future," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton.

Cable operators would not be required to carry the analog stations under Capps' bill. Cable operators are already required by the FCC to make the signals of digital TV stations that demand carriage viewable in analog and digital cable homes after Feb. 17.

Under current law, all 1,756 full-power TV stations need to surrender their analog TV licenses on Feb. 17 and rely exclusively on their digital signals.

Capps' bill, called the Short-term Analog Flash and Emergency Readiness Act (SAFER ACT), would alter that scheme by providing a lifeline of critical information to consumers who had failed to prepare properly for digital-only broadcasting.

To some extent, Capps’ bill is modeled after the DTV transition test that occurred in Wilmington, N.C. on Sept. 8. The five participating commercial TV stations are airing DTV transition information, but not regular programming, on their analog channels until Sept. 30.

Without Capps' bill, TV stations in the other 209 markets would need to cease analog broadcasting on Feb. 17 and couldn’t replicate the post-transition public awareness effort use in Wilmington.

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