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CLINTON DIGITAL PLAN IRKS BROADCASTERS

Broadcasters are planning a lobbying blitz against a provision in the budget-balancing plan, unveiled by the Clinton Administration on Dec 7, that requires TV stations to make a quick transition from analog to digital delivery of programming.

Under the proposal, TV stations would not be forced to bid on new digital spectrum. However, they would have to complete the transition from analog to digital by the year 2005. That’s up to eight years faster than an analog-to-digital transition envisioned by the Federal Communications Commission.

The White House hopes to raise $13 billion by auctioning off the analog spectrum once the broadcast industry transition to digital is complete.

Broadcasters say they will not be able to afford the accelerated cost of converting to digital under the Clinton plan. They also claim it will result in a huge new tax on consumers, since Americans will be required to buy new digital TV sets or converter boxes to receive digital signals.

“This plan by the White House would result in a $187 billion tax on consumers,” National Assn. of Broadcasters lobbyist Jim May said.

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