Democrats Make Formal Move to Postpone US dTV Switchover

21 January 2009

WASHINGTON, DC: Pointing the finger at party opponents is a favourite pastime of politicos the world over – and West Virginia's Democrat Senator Jay Rockefeller is no exception.

The outgone Bush administration, the senator accuses, mismanaged the transition from analog to digital TV, scheduled for February 17.

Thunders Rockefeller who (somewhat ironically, given his antecedence) represents America's second poorest mainland state: "Over two million Americans are waiting to receive a coupon to help them offset the cost of equipment that will help them manage the transition, [and] millions more don't have the proper information they need."

The coupon in question carries a value of $40 and is intended to help poorer citizens to cover the cost of converter boxes. But the Bush administration somehow managed to run out of coupons, leaving two million people to face the prospect of blank TV screens come switchover date.

Nielsen reports that around 6.8% of America's TV households were unprepared for the transition as of early December

Rockefeller continued: "I am especially concerned, because this transition is going to hit our most vulnerable citizens – the poor, the elderly, the disabled and those with language barriers – the hardest. Rural communities that rely on over-the-air television will be especially impacted."

As incoming chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Rockefeller last week filed legislation to delay the transition to digital TV until June 12.

Delay would not please Republicans who claim it could impact adversely on firefighters, police officers and other emergency services who await the additional spectrum freed-up by the switch to digital.

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff