DTV delay is delayed: House rejects bill pushing back digital TV transition
After this week's back and forth on extending the date for the digital TV transition, I've concluded one thing: There is no activity so simple or complex that Congress can't find a way to screw it up.
The U.S. House of Representatives did not produce the two-thirds majority needed to fast-track the bill delaying the transition to digital TV, ostensibly handing the Obama administration its first legislative defeat of sorts. House Democrats could choose to bring up the bill as a typical piece of legislation, but it could be killed in committee -- weighed down with extended debate and amendments at a time when legislators are more focused on the tussle over the economic stimulus plan.
After talking to a few lobbyists close to this issue this morning, it seems it would be difficult for advocates of the bill to get something passed before Feb. 17. What might pass, is an effort to fix the coupon program for digital TV converters -- essentially providing a bit more money for the program so more Americans can get off the waiting list and get coupons to turn analog TVs into digital receivers.
Here's the politics of it all: broadcasters are afraid of openly opposing the delay -- even though it will cost them millions -- because they want to stay on the new administration's good side, to have some leverage over the new FCC. Democrats wouldn't mind delaying the switch because they know the government is under-prepared and Obama could use a victory or two before millions of Americans lose TV programming under a plan essentially developed by a previous administration.
Even though local stations hate the delay because it will cost them money, TV networks and ad agencies would prefer a delay, because they want to see the numbers of unprepared consumers reduced even further before a switch is enacted.
And viewers, who have been hearing for years that TV will change on Feb. 17, now have even more incentive to get cable or satellite TV, where the switch will be seamless, whenever it happens.