Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) got unanimous consent – again – for a bill that would move the DTV transition from 2/17/09 to 6/12/09. The content of the new version is close to the first one, with minor modifications to bring it in line with the bill recently considered and rejected in the House due to failure to get a two-thirds super-majority. The next step is expected to be the House Rules Committee – if it refers it to the floor, it will need only a simple majority and could possibly be brought to a vote by mid-week.
“The Senate has acted quickly and in a bipartisan way to put the needs of consumers first. Senator Hutchison’s leadership was critical to getting this bill passed. We addressed the concerns of our colleagues, public safety, broadcasters and most importantly, consumers. The House will have a second chance next week to implement this delay, I am hopeful they will pass this bill so we can send it to President Obama,” Rockefeller said.
The bill will allow broadcasters the option of going all-digital as of 2/17/09, and will fix the coupon program, among other things.
Meanwhile, Consumer Electronics Association President/CEO Gary Shapiro noted that a delay would bring costs with it, but that his organization would continue to do what it could to foster a successful transition whenever it occurs. "We pledge our full support for a successful transition to DTV even if the date is extended, and we urge Congress to take all necessary steps to ensure adequate supply of converter boxes and to educate consumers regarding the date change," he said.
The nation’s three major advertising organizations — Association of National Advertisers, American Association of Advertising Agencies and the American Advertising Federation — came out in support of a delay. In addition to cutting off unprepared Americans from news and emergency information, the groups are afraid that the “…sudden loss of the ability to receive television transmission would cut off millions of Americans from important media access including the commercial messages of our members.”
RBR/TVBR observation: Joe Barton (R-TX) has an alternate plan ready to go in the House, but the only place it will go is nowhere. Barton is simply outnumbered, and with zero support from Republicans in the Senate and a president ready and willing to sign off on the bill, it’s going to happen.