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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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May 24, 2005

New Bill to Mandate DTV Transition by Jan 2009

Posted by Ernest Miller

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tx) has released a copy of a draft bill that would force the digital television (DTV) transition to occur by Jan 1, 2009. I've been trying to get ahold of a copy, but haven't had any success yet. The bill is supposedly very fluid at this point, so expect Hollywood interests to push to get the Broadcast Flag into it. There are also a number of other interesting aspects regarding the draft bill and a hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Broadcasting & Cable reports that one of the major issues in the draft is the size of subsidies so that people can purchase the necessary converters (DTV Draft Bill Sets 2008 Date). They also report on some of the other parts of the draft (DTV Bill Covers Many Bases):

  • DTV channel assignments: By Dec. 31, 2006 the FCC must allocate final assignments between chs. 2 and 51. Appeals of those assignments must be resolved by July 31, 2007.
  • Cable carriage: Cable operators may continue providing all local must-carry TV stations' signals to customers in an analog format, but only if they also make a digital version available. Any high-definition programming broadcast by the stations must be carried without any degradation in signal quality. [Cable companies aren't going to like this]
  • Spectrum auction: Chs. 52-69, which are slated to be reclaimed by the government, would be auctioned by the FCC on April 1, 2008.
  • Consumer education: 45 days after the the bill's enactment, TV set makers must place warning labels on analog-only sets explaining that those sets won't receive TV signals after Dec. 31, 2008 unless hooked up to a converter box or a pay-TV service. From July 1 to Dec. 31 of 2008, TV stations must air a minimum of two 60-second PSAs providing the same information. During the same time frame, cable operators and satellite TV providers shall include that information in monthly bills. The FCC also would be required to engage in a public outreach campaign.
  • DTV tuner mandate: Beginning July 1, 2006, all sets 13 inches and larger that have analog tuners must also contain tuners capable of receiving digital over-the-air broadcasts.
The National Journal's Insider Update discusses the "must-carry" provision and notes that the draft drops public interest standards for DTV, a good thing in my book, although I must say that there is still plenty wrong in our telecommunications regulatory structure (Digital TV Draft Legislation Includes Controversial 'Must-Carry' Language).

Broadcast & Cable has much more on the public interest issue here: Legal Center Lambastes DTV Public Interest.
Read a 19-page report on the issue from Campaign Legal Center: Broken Promises: How Digital Broadcasters are Failing to Serve the Public Interest [PDF].

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcast Flag


1. Precision Blogger on May 24, 2005 01:08 PM writes...

The government simply should not be mandating this shift. Leave it to capitalsim to work out how we shift to digital broadcasting.

The analog networks have a great reason to engineer the shift themselves - otherwise they will lose out to digital feeds on the internet.

The Govt should not be subsidizing people to buy digital sets. Let the networks do this subsidizing if it's in their own interest.
- Precision Blogger

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