Dingell, Barton come to virtual blows over DTV


The top dogs in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce are both looking forward to the DTV transition on 2/17/09. It will be a boon to first responders, and it will provide revolutionary new television service to American viewers. But the two don't see eye to eye on how we get from here to there. The scene for the duel was Congressional newspaper The Hill, and it pitted Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) against Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-TX).

The points of contention are basically two: Will there be enough set-top boxes in circulation on that date to make sure that nobody loses service, and will enough be spent on educating the public beforehand. Dingell says, "Few Americans are aware of the upcoming nationwide transition from analog to digital broadcasting, and, to date, there is little sign that the federal agencies responsible for informing consumers have developed a plan to do so." He says the FCC wants 1.5M for the task, and compares that to the 2.6M a company might pay for one Super Bowl ad.

In short, he finds the amount inadequate. He also cites 21M homes currently relying on over-the-air television and thinks the set-top coupon funding is also inadequate. Barton disagrees. He says the dual funding for set-top boxes, a 990M base allocation with 510M in reserve, should be enough for what he believes will be a demand for only 8M. And he thinks the education will take care of itself, or stakeholding companies will take care of it. He said, "TV watchers are the customers of broadcasters, cable operators, satellite companies and TV retailers. Those industries have a strong incentive to inform America how to manage the transition." He noted that Congress was prepared to help in the effort. Both agree on the need to hit the deadline.