The Congressional fight over setting a hard deadline for ending the DTV transition is expected to be fierce in the coming months. Several Congress members want broadcasters' analog spectrum returned for alternative uses, while broadcasters, led by the NAB, oppose such a deadline - unless they get huge concessions, such as multichannel digital must-carry.
To prepare for battle, the NAB, ABC and CBS affiliate groups, minority and rural representatives and some broadcast unions have formed the Coalition for a Smart Digital TV Transition.
The FCC is pushing a plan that would allow digital broadcast signals to be converted to analog by cable systems in order to allow analog viewers to receive continuous broadcast service and allow a turn-off of all analog broadcasting by 2009. Some members of Congress want an earlier deadline. The broadcasters contend the analog conversion would degrade their signals.
Without a change in DTV transition rules that sets a hard deadline, FCC Chairman Powell said the digital transitions could continue for decades, with broadcasters continuing to tie up twin sets of spectrum.