Dingell: DTV Transition Must Speed Up

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Washington -- Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest-serving member of the
House, warned broadcasters Monday that a plodding digital transition puts their
analog spectrum at risk.

In a speech here, Dingell said budget deficits and public-safety needs could
prompt Congress to seize the analog spectrum and auction it to the highest
bidder.

"This transition is going to have to be completed with all due speed because
the wolves are howling at your door. They want your spectrum," Dingell said at a
National Association of Broadcasters forum in a downtown hotel.

Every TV station in the country was loaned a second channel to transition to
digital. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission would like the
analog channels back no later than Dec. 31, 2006.

Consumers who don't have digital TVs or set-tops at the time the analog
spectrum is reclaimed would lose analog-TV service. As a result, some lawmakers
are worried about a political backlash from terminating analog TV
prematurely.

President Bush proposed collecting $500 million per year starting in 2007
from TV stations that have not yielded their analog spectrum.

Before Dingell spoke, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House
Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, called Bush's tax plan
"DOA," or dead on arrival.

Dingell, who was not present for Upton's remarks, said political forces
taking shape could spark congressional interest in Bush's tax plan.

"Until now, this proposal has not found many friends in Congress, but soaring
deficits and other financial problems for this nation make the idea of a
squatters' tax look better to many," Dingell said.

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