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Senate Once Again Passes Bill to Delay Transition to Digital TV

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By Kim Hart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 29, 2009; 11:00 PM

For the second time, the Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday night to delay the transition to digital television by four months in order to give consumers more time to get ready.

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The Senate first passed a bill Monday to postpone the switch from Feb. 17 to June 12. But on Wednesday, House Republicans blocked the bill from getting the two-thirds majority needed to pass under the rules applied to the legislation, even though the majority of lawmakers voted in favor of the delay.

By passing the bill that failed in the House, the Senate is giving the House another chance to vote on the measure under regular rules that would allow it to pass with a simple majority vote. The House could vote on the bill as early as Tuesday.

By law, all television broadcasters must shut off analog signals Feb. 17 and air only digital programming in order to free up airwaves for public safety networks and new wireless services. As a result, viewers who rely on analog TV sets and antennas to receive broadcasts will need to upgrade to a digital TV set or install a converter box to get signals.

A federal program to subsidize coupons to help consumers pay for converter boxes ran out of money this month. Many Democrats on Capitol Hill say too many viewers could lose broadcasts if the transition goes on as scheduled, and the Obama administration urged Congress to delay it. Republicans argue a delay would confuse viewers and cost TV stations millions of dollars.

In a statement, a White House spokeswoman urged the House to move quickly to pass the bill, and that the administration "will work with Congress to improve the information and assistance available to Americans as the nation moves to digital television."


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