Support for '06 Wanes


San Francisco -- Support in the House for cutting off analog broadcasting by the end of 2006 is ebbing, a House source said Sunday. Lawmakers are now looking at Dec. 31, 2007 as the earliest date for ending the digital transition, the source said.

House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) is backing a Dec. 31, 2006 deadline, meaning 73 million analog TV sets that rely exclusively on free, over-the-air TV would go dark without a set-top box or a connection to cable or satellite television.

Barton, who plans to introduce a bill soon, has said the precise terms of the bill wouldn’t be known until he’s finished negotiating with Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.)

“It’s a high priority. We’re doing it this year,” said Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif.), who serves on Barton’s committee.

While cable and the consumer-electronics industry have voiced support for Barton’s approach, the National Association of Broadcasters has said a 2006 deadline would be premature and potentially disruptive to millions of consumers.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), an Energy and Commerce member who toured the National Show floor here Sunday with Radanovich, said she believed that consumers would be prepared for the transition.

“I think that once we decide on what the date is going to be, from what we’ve heard people will get in gear and make it happen,” Blackburn said.

In the debate, cable has asked for permission to convert DTV signals at the headend to avoid the cost of deploying millions of set-top boxes.