Broadcasting stations relying on eyeballs from across the border in Mexico will not risk losing access to them suddenly on 2/17/09 when the digital transition kicks in, thanks to legislation from Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and a unanimous vote of her colleagues in the Senate. Stations along the border will be allowed to run dual analog and digital operations for up to four years after that deadline. There are also concerns that some viewers along the border watch a lot of broadcasting originating in Mexico, and are therefore less aware of the upcoming transition and could lose access to critical emergency information from US stations if the dual operation system is not extended.
RBR/TVBR observation: This is more of a reminder, actually. Hutchison is the new temporary Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee. She’s filling in for Ted Stevens (R-AK), who stepped down in observance of his own caucus’ rules following his indictment for failure to report reception of valuable items back in Alaska. Stevens is facing a tough re-election fight, and may not be returning to Washington even if he escapes all charges being brought against him – and although his trial is going to be accelerated, it still will be pending up into just before Election Day. So there is a good chance the top Republican seat in this key committee will be Hutchison’s when the 111th Congress convenes.