House DTV Bill Faces Likely Delay


Action by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on terminating analog-TV service within a few years will likely be postponed by at least one week, industry and Capitol Hill sources said Wednesday.

The Senate Commerce Committee scheduled Oct. 19 to hold key votes on the same issue, but budget politics in the House are complicating the committee’s effort by the Energy and Commerce Committee to complete work on digital-television issues at the same time.

Big issues are on the table: In addition to setting an analog-cutoff date, the House and Senate panels are expected to decide whether to spend billions of dollars on set-top boxes for the less affluent and whether to force cable operators to carry on-demand the free multiple digital services provided by local TV stations.

The House panel is unlikely to vote next week because House Budget Committee leaders are coming under pressure to cut spending or find new revenue to pay for Hurricane Katrina cleanup.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee was expected to find about $15 billion in savings under the budget blueprint adopted before Katrina. The panel might be expected to come up with billions of dollars more.

“We have not scheduled a [digital-TV] markup yet,” House Energy and Commerce spokesman Terry Lane said.

Auction of the analog-TV spectrum before 2009 is expected to raise about $10 billion for the U.S. Treasury. Some of the money is expected to fund the set-top program.