Senate whacks spectrum tax

B'casters laud bill on auction shortfall

WASHINGTON — The Senate approved by an 84-15 vote Friday a measure that calls on budget writers to cut spending if spectrum auctions fail to raise as much as revenue as they expect.

The “sense of the Senate” resolution is not legally binding but broadcasters were glad with the result because they want to head off efforts to tax TV stations if future airwave auctions fall short of revenue goals. The measure was sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the ranking Democrat on the committee Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.).

“We are grateful that Chairman McCain and Senator Ernest Hollings have highlighted the fact that spectrum auctions continue to be a dubious source of revenue,” National Assn. of Broadcasters president Eddie Fritts said Friday.

The current balanced budget proposal counts on airwave auctions for more than $30 billion in revenue — $5.4 billion of which is expected to come from the sale of airwaves broadcasters are now using. The TV airwave sale is supposed to take place in 2002, in anticipation of a national switch from the current analog TV channels to new digital channels which should be up and running by that time.

Homes without digital TV sets will not be able to watch free over-the-air TV after 2006 according to the plan.

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