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House backs digital TV delay

Obama likely to approve June 12 measure

The second time was the charm: The House voted Wednesday to delay the deadline for the switch from analog to digital broadcasting from Feb. 17 until June 12.

The bill calling for the delay, unanimously passed by the Senate last week, now moves onto President Obama, who has already indicated that he’ll sign it.

The delay has been championed by Obama and congressional Democrats, who argue that too many American homes — around 6.5 million, according to a report released by Nielsen last month — are not ready to receive digital broadcasts.

More time is needed, they say, to fix a federal program designed to subsidize converter boxes that are needed to make older analog TV sets work after the digital switch is thrown. Homes that subscribe to cable or satellite services will not be affected by the switch.

House Republicans, meanwhile, argued that delaying the transition would further confuse the public and increase costs for stations, which would have to maintain both analog and digital broadcast transmissions for another four months.

GOP members of the House voted the bill down last week, when it was introduced under expedited procedures requiring a two-thirds majority. However, Wednesday’s vote on the regular House calendar required only a simple majority, with the bill passing by a 254-158 margin.

Passage of the bill was praised by the FCC and broadcasters alike.

“News Corp. is pleased that, through the actions of Congress and the Obama administration, American consumers will be given additional time to prepare for the digital television transition,” read a conglom statement.

Interim FCC chairman Michael J. Copps said: “The additional four months provided by the law affords urgently needed time for a more phased transition.”

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