Draft Bill: No Analog TV in 2006

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House legislation in draft form would require TV stations to terminate analog
broadcasting Dec. 31, 2006 -- a proposal that would likely require millions of
consumers that do not subscribe to cable or satellite to buy digital-TV sets or
digital-to-analog converters.

The termination of over-the-air analog TV was contained in draft legislation
circulated Wednesday by House Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.)
and ranking member John Dingell (D-Mich.).

In a break for the cable industry, the legislation would prohibit the Federal
Communications Commission from requiring cable operators to carry both analog
and digital signals beamed by local TV stations. Cable operators have argued
that 'dual must-carry' violates the First Amendment.

For now, the legislation is silent on mandatory cable carriage of multiple
digital signals transmitted by one TV station in a market.

Under current law, a TV station with a digital license is not required to
return its analog license until at least 85 percent of households in the local
market have the capability of receiving digital-TV signals.

With the digital-TV transition moving slowly, the 85 percent test was
expected to allow TV stations to retain valuable analog and digital spectrum for
many years to come. Congress wants to reclaim the analog spectrum as quickly as
possible and have the FCC auction it to the wireless-phone
industry.

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