Hutchison Expresses DTV Transition Concerns

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Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) has "a couple of things" that concern her about the current state of the DTV transition, including that broadcasters weren't compensated for some of their costs in moving the transition date.

Hutchison teamed with Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on the bill that moved the analog cut-off hard date from Feb. 17 to June 12.

According to Brian Hendricks, legislative counsel to Senator Hutchison, she had hoped that the economic stimulus package that set aside $650 million for the coupon program and DTV education would have included some compensation for broadcasters that had to pay to keep their transmitters running that extra time: "That is a conversation I think we're still hoping to have going forward."

That comment drew some applause from the crowd of broadcasters he was addressing at a National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference in Washington.

He said another concern was that the committee has not had a DTV oversight hearing yet. The House held its DTV oversight hearing last week.

Hendricks gave some insight into why Hutchison broke with many of her Republican colleagues to support moving the date. He said she would have preferred not to have to move the date: "That was not her first impulse."

But she had concerns about issues with stations on the border with Mexico; about folks dislocated along the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Ike who had expired converter box coupons coupons; and eligibility issues in terms of day laborers who use PO boxes that were not eligible for the coupons.

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