Monday, January 12, 2009

TV manufacturers fight delay in digital transition

The lobbying battle over a proposed delay in the Feb. 17 transition to digital television went public today, as the Consumer Electronics Association said a postponement would be confusing, “serious and potentially disruptive.” CEA made its arguments in a letter to John Podesta, co-chair of President-elect Obama's transition team, who last week asked Congress to delay the Feb. 17 mandate, mainly to help poor and rural TV viewers, since the federal coupon program for converter boxes has started and a waiting list has begun.

CEA represents major manufacturers of TVs and other electronic goods. Its president and CEO, Gary Shapiro, said in the letter, “A change in the date could engender skepticism, confusion and distrust the next time government asks them to undertake specific actions in anticipation of a major event. ... With awareness now close to 100 percent, any change will be confusing and difficult to explain,” and perhaps also expensive.

While Podesta's letter to Congress "didn’t mention a date, broadcasters say the date being considered is some time in June," reports Ira Tenowitz of TV Week. "Senate Commerce Committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is preparing legislation that is expected to propose a delay." (Read more)

UPDATE, Jan. 13: Two big telecommunications firms are on opposite sides of the issue, with At&T endorsing a three-month delay and Verizon opposing it, Ted Hearn of Multichannel News reports.

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