Katrina Blows Digital TV Laws of Course

15 September 2005

The US government has put back its deadline for digital television legislation until the middle of October.

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina means the Senate Commerce Committee now needs more time to work on legislation to include projected income from an analog spectrum auction in its financial packages.

Lawmakers want to sell off some of the analog spectrum occupied by broadcasters to wireless companies - with estimates ranging from $10 billion (€8.15bn; £5.49bn) to $30 billion. The sell-off will also free up spectrum for the upgrading of emergency services communication.

Both Republicans and Democrats have been working on a deadline to switch off the analog signal in favour of digital-only TV, with January 2009 as the date finally agreed to by broadcasters.

Under current law broadcasters are required to cease analog transmissions at the end of 2006, but exceptions have been granted for markets where less than 85% of TV viewers receive a digital signal.

One of the hurdles to setting a switchover deadline is that only five million homes presently have digital cable TV sets or a digital tuner.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff