Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Stevens (R-AK) has signed on as cosponsor to a bill from fellow small-state colleague Olympia Snowe (R-ME) which would scare up some cash to speed up the entry of rural low power TV, Class A TV and TV translators into the digital world. Stevens said that under current law, such stations would not receive promised upgrade cash from the Department of Commerce until October 2010, 20 months after the 2/17/09 DTV conversion date. The bill would speed up that process. “This bill is vital to rural parts of our nation, including Alaska,” said Senator Stevens. “It is important to ensure that rural America receives the same benefits of digital television as quickly as the nation’s urban areas. Television in rural Alaska is not only entertainment, but also provides distance learning and important public safety announcements.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Hill, the FCC received a hearty round of applause from Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) and Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Chair Ed Markey (D-MA) for releasing its plan for consumer DTV education. Both commended the Commission and said they were looking forward to rapid implementation of the plan.
TVBR/RBR observation: Any objective look into the DTV conversion would have to throw low powers into the oversight category, using the work oversight as a synonym of omission. It is therefore a good thing that the oversight committees, using the word oversight in its watchdog sense, are taking a keen interest in their plight. This bill figures to be a surefire winner among small state senators regardless of party affiliation, and likely will be broadly popular in general since almost all 50 states have at least some rural areas to consider.