DTV Plan Carries Political Risk


Rep. Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.) Wednesday offered probably the best reason why
Congress won't adopt a plan that would make an estimated 80 million TV sets go
dark in four years.

'An end of the analog signal on Dec. 31, 2006, could also be the end of many
of our congressional careers,' he said at a House Telecommunications and the
Internet Subcommittee hearing on the transition to digital television that
included nine witnesses representing a range of interests.

House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) -- in a
recent draft bill crafted with Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and other House
Democrats -- would terminate analog TV Dec. 31, 2006.

Because TV sets not connected to cable or satellite would be useless,
consumers would have to shell out hundreds of dollars to buy digital-TV sets or
digital-to-analog converters.

The analog-cutoff is just one issue shaping the debate.

Robert Wright, CEO of NBC and vice chairman of parent General Electric Co.,
said Congress needed to require cable operators to carry free multiple digital
signals of local TV stations -- a proposal vigorously opposed by the cable
industry as a broadcaster land grab that will hurt fledgling cable networks.

'All we ask is that government not place its thumb on the scale in a way that
favors one set of speakers over another,' Hallmark Channel president and CEO
Lana Corbi said.