Senate GOP blocks DTV delay bill


Republican Senators on Friday blocked an attempt to call a floor vote on the bill by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) which would delay the February 17th DTV transition to June 12th. The outlook for the bill is unclear. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is expected to vote Wednesday on a similar bill.

It is not clear which Senator (or Senators) put a hold on the legislation, but there are two groups in the GOP currently opposed to the Rockefeller bill. One group is opposed to any delay in the DTV transition date, insisting that it should go ahead as required by current law – and widely promoted – on February 17th. The other group is more willing to go along with a delay, but wants the legislation to deal at the same time with fixing the NTIA converter box coupon program, which hit a budget brick wall earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Wilmington, NC and the entire State of Hawaii have completed their early transitions from analog to digital television with manageable levels of disruption. The February 17th switch-over date is still being heavily promoted by broadcast stations and elsewhere. Outgoing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who leaves the post tomorrow, said in a C-SPAN interview that he sees the odds of delay at 50/50.

RBR/TVBR observation: We have hopes that the rules of the Senate will prevent this misguided legislation from becoming law. A single member can invoke his/her intent to filibuster and then proponents must muster 60 votes to force the measure to a vote. The public will be better served if the end of analog television takes place on February 17th – as has been promoted by stations, the FCC and many others for months and months – rather than creating mass confusion as advocated by some members of both parties who have apparently been panicked by consumer advocate groups who have failed to consider the consequences of the delay they are pursuing.