The House Energy and Commerce Committee canceled a DTV markup to see what was up in the Senate Commerce Committee – and an agreement between party leadership there signal that the February deadline will indeed move to June. The bill, DTV Delay Act, represents a compromise between Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). It will change the DTV deadline from 2/17/09 to 6/12/09. Additionally, it will provide fixes for the coupon program (one of them being more time), look into converter box supply levels and the organization of consumer post-transition call centers. It will also allow stations wishing to turn off their analog signals and go all-digital to do so.
Rockefeller said, “But the shameful truth is that we are not poised to do this transition right. We are only weeks away from doing it dreadfully wrong—and leaving consumers with the consequences.” He is worried that as many as 21M households will be left behind.
Hutchison added, “I had serious concerns about shifting the digital television transition without a sound plan to inform consumers or address the converter box coupon shortage. I am pleased that Chairman Rockefeller worked with me to address many of the concerns with the early proposals.”
Both senators said that the DTV Delay Act was imperfect, calling it a much needed start.
RBR/TVBR observation: With Hutchison on board, the only chance for a Republican blockade is a hold, which can be executed by a single senator. The hold could be erased with 60 votes, and it is hard to see 41 senators upholding a filibuster and setting themselves up for scapegoating. The House isn’t going to stop it and the White House is going to sign it. We therefore believe, like it or not, that this bill is as good as a done deal.