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Digital TV transition in US may be deferred to June news
24 January 2009

It seems that the much-awaited digital television transmission will take some more time arriving in the US, as a group of Republican senators have agreed to a plan to delay the transition from analogue to digital to 12 June.

Many Republican senators had earlier blocked a plan to delay the deadline but over the last seem to have changed their position. The final transition plan will be put to vote early next week.

The switch to digital TV broadcast from analogue was mandated by Congress in 2005 with 17 February as the deadline date for all TV broadcasters to switch to digital transmission. The switch will free up wireless spectrum, which the FCC has already allocated to public safety or auctioned for new services, mainly broadband wireless.

Consumers with an analog television would need a converter box to view digital broadcasts but consumers with digital televisions or cable or satellite service would not be affected.

However, according to surveys around 6.5 million US households would see their televisions go dark as they are not prepared for the transition due next month.

President Obama had earlier this month urged Congress to postpone the transition as most Americans were not prepared for the switch.

According to some republicans, changing the date would only lead to further confusion among consumers and additional cost to broadcasters who have made preparations for the February switch. Moreover, they point out that wireless companies and public safety agencies are awaiting the freed up spectrum that would be vacated.

Meanwhile, the original bill is being amended to take democrat and republican senators on board and incorporate proposals to address the concerns of both sides.

The amended bill, it is understood, would allow broadcasters to turn off analog signals before the June 12 deadline, and public safety agencies would be allowed to use those airwaves as soon as they are available. The bill would also allow consumers with expired coupons to re-apply for new ones.

The Senate will vote on the DTV Delay Act, as it has come to be known next week.

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Digital TV transition in US may be deferred to June