Obama asks for digital TV broadcast postponement


President-elect Barack Obama asked Congress last week to delay the nation’s 17 February  transition to digital television broadcasting in order to avert any possibility that  millions of TV households would lose their TV reception following the transition.

The request, which came in a letter from Obama’s transition team co-chair John Podesta, followed a similar request from the Consumers Union asking Congress, Obama and President George W. Bush to delay the transition.

But not everyone agrees on a postponement. Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC, said that any delay is a bad idea. Speaking during the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, Martin said postponing the transition could confuse consumers. He said it also posed problems for broadcasters that have scheduled engineering work to remove their analogue antennas.

It was revealed on 4 January by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration that the limit had been reached on the number of DTV converter box coupons it could issue.  Congress had issued a $1.34 billion allocation for the programme. It was then decided that those applying for coupons would be placed on a waiting list for coupons and be issued coupons on a first-come-first-serve basis as funds are returned to the U.S. Treasury from previously issued, expired coupons.

Representative Edward Markey, D-MA, a member of the House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee, has also expressed his reservations about going ahead with digital transition. He said by delaying the transition date “significant logistical challenges” would be created.  Regardless, “the prospect of leaving millions of consumers in the dark” means Congress must “immediately consider” Obama’s proposal, he said.


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