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Pressler kills b’cast auction plan

Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) has jettisoned plans to require auctions of spectrum that has been reserved for broadcasters’ switch from analog to digital TV.

Sources said Pressler backed off his proposal after realizing he couldn’t muster enough support to pass his proposal out of the Senate Commerce Committee, which he chairs.

Pressler had envisioned raising enough coin through the spectrum auction sale to help establish a $4 billion “trust fund” for public broadcasting. The trust fund would have thrown off enough interest to replace the $285 million currently earmarked for the Corp. for Public Broadcasting.

But broadcasters lobbied fiercely against the proposal, claiming that they would not be able to bid for the new spectrum against the likes of telephone companies. Moreover, they claimed the Pressler plan would sound the death knell for TV stations’ conversion to high-definition TV.

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