Analog TV execution date set by Feds
ON April 7, 2009, millions of analog televisions may go dark if the United States abandons analog TV service.
The so-called hard date is set within a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee bill designed to complete broad- casters' long-mandated transition to digital TV.
The draft was sponsored by committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R, Alaska) and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D, Hawaii), a ranking member.
The committee has "separated out this hard date into a revenue bill," said Mike Rosenberg, president and general manager of KITV, Hawaii's ABC affiliate. "It has nothing to do with the rest of the broadcast revision of the telecommunications bill. It is simply to somehow get the budget closer to balanced."
The analog broadcast spectrum vacated by TV stations would be split among recipients, according to industry publication Multichannel News.
The federal government would allocate 24 megahertz of analog spectrum to first responders, such as police and fire departments, for crisis communications. The rest would be auctioned to wireless broadband providers and some of the revenue would be used to fund equipment for those first responders, the publication reported.
The Federal Communications Commission would auction the spectrum beginning in January 2008 and raise as much as $10 billion.
"We have no problem giving back the spectrum," Rosenberg said. "During the short period of time we're doing analog and digital, we're paying electricity twice. We're paying to maintain the two transmitters."
The potential loss of over-the-air TV signals sounds ominous. The National Association of Broadcasters estimates that 73 million analog TV sets in the United States would no longer function should analog transmission be terminated right now.
However, even when it is instituted, it will not affect that many people in Hawaii because the percentage of households using cable and satellite services to watch TV is so high, according to Rodney Shimabukuro, director of engineering for KITV.
Viewers capturing over-the-air television signals using so-called "rabbit ears," and rooftop antennae, as well as apartments and condos with rooftop arrays, will need to purchase analog-to-digital receivers that are being developed by manufacturers.
The consumer electronics industry has a target consumer price of about $50 for a converter box for analog TV sets, Rosenberg said.
Commercial buildings such as condos will have a more complicated situation.
"They have one (rooftop) antenna for a couple of stations and they bring the signal down and distribute it throughout the building on a different channel," Shimabukuro said.
"Those guys will be affected because they'll have to redo all their transmissions in the building and also have to have boxes."
Nearly half the auction funds would be deposited in the U.S. Treasury, but a portion also could be used to supply analog-to-digital converter boxes to the eligible needy, Rosenberg said.
The bill is scheduled for a commerce committee vote on Wednesday.
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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org