DTV Nightlight Bill Passes House, Heads To President
By: John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable
Broadcasters will get an extra 30 days past the Feb. 17, 2009 DTV transition date to air DTV education messages on their analog signals.
The House late Wednesday passed the DTV nightlight bill – officially the SAFER [Short-term Analog Flash and Emergency Readiness] Act – by unanimous consent, following the lead of the Senate which did the same thing last month. The bill now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it.
The house bill was introduced by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) and the Senate version by Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA), slated to become the next chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Broadcasters who elect to broadcast the education messages will need to air them in both Spanish and English. They will also get any emergency weather or public safety information that airs on the digital signal.
"“This legislation provides an important safety net as we work to ensure that no one gets left behind in the conversion," said Capps of the bill's passage.
The FCC is directed by Jan. 15 to come up with a plan to implement the voluntary program. A source says the FCC has been working on the plan in anticipation of the bill's passage.
Broadcasters pushed for the grace period, and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has said he thought it was a good idea. However, he also suggested some broadcasters might want to make the switch a week or two early and thus have a grace period without having to change the law, which requires the cessation of full-power analog at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2009.