Handing broadcasters a key victory, the Senate Thursday voted overwhelmingly to reject moving the digital-TV transition ahead by one year, as proposed in an amendment sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
In a 69-30 vote, the Senate refused to set April 7, 2008, as the date for shutting off analog TV. By doing so, lawmakers endorsed the April 7, 2009, date found in the bill McCain was attempting to amend.
McCain sought to advance the date in order to expedite the transfer of some analog-TV spectrum to first responders to address their concerns about inadequate mobile communications when multiple jurisdictions respond to crises, such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
McCain's opponents complained that a 2008 cutoff was premature because it would likely reduce revenue from analog-TV-spectrum auctions and force the government to spend more money on set-top subsidies for analog TVs that rely exclusively on free, over-the-air broadcasting.
"Today's overwhelming 69-30 vote in the Senate represents a victory for millions of Americans who could have been left stranded by a premature end to analog-television service," National Association of Broadcasters president Edward Fritts said in a prepared statement.
According to industry and government sources, the United States has 73 million analog TVs that are not connected to pay TV services. All would need set-tops or connections to cable or satellite in order to keep working in a digital-only broadcast environment.
House legislation approved by the Energy & Commerce Committee would terminate the transition Dec. 31, 2008, four months earlier than the main Senate bill.