Washington -- House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin
(R-La.) intends to offer legislation in a few weeks that would require the
return of analog spectrum no later than Dec. 31, 2006, an aide to the lawmaker
Last year, Tauzin circulated draft legislation that contained the
controversial provision, which would render useless all analog-TV sets that had
not been connected to some kind of digital-to-analog converter by 2007.
"Billy hasn't given me any indication of taking it out. At this point, I
expect it to stay in," said Tauzin's telecommunications counsel, Jessica
Wallace, who addressed a National Association of Broadcasters forum at a
downtown hotel here.
The legislation -- designed to hasten the transition to digital-only
terrestrial broadcasting -- is expected to move through the committee at a brisk
pace. Wallace indicated that hearings and full-committee votes could occur prior
to the April 14 Easter recess.
"We haven't set out precise timing," she added. "I think we are going to be
looking to drop a bill and then move to a hearing and then a markup stage on a
fairly quick basis, as opposed to letting some language out. A lot of these
issue are not new."
The draft bill had a glaring hole that apparently has not been filled.
Because digital technology allows one TV station to beam multiple channels
instead of one, the NAB wants either Congress or the Federal Communications
Commission to require cable carriage after the transition of every signal except
those requiring subscription.
"I have talked to the chairman only briefly about it and he is still
unresolved. He is still pretty up in the air on that one," she said.
The draft also banned the FCC from requiring cable carriage of both analog
and digital signals during the transition. Wallace expects to see that provision
in the new legislation.