US digital TV switchover is delayed. And then it isn't...

It seems the switchover to digital TV in the US is getting even more confusing, with some serious 'will it, won't it' wrangling going on in the hallowed chambers of the legislature.

You may remember our news story a few weeks back about move by the transition team of then-President-elect Obama to get the switchover date delayed. It was set at February 17, but the Obama team considered the American population not ready for the analogue switch-off, and feared millions of US homes would simply lose their TV service on switchover day.

Well, the latest developments in the saga, which revolves around the uptake of a voucher scheme designed to subsidise the purchase of digital converter boxes, see the cut and thrust between the two houses of the US legislature.

On Monday night, the Senate approved unanimously a bill to move the transition date back almost four months, to June 12. But this was only achieved after a first attempt by Senator Jay Rockefeller to get a simple delay was blocked.

Compromise bill
The Senator then co-proposed a compromise bill, involving clearing the converter box backlog, freeing up analogue spectrum for use by industry and emergency services, and paying for the delay by auctioning off the bandwidth freed up by the switch.

That bill passed. Job done. Sorted.

Ermm, not quite. Yesterday the House of Representatives voted down the bill, Republican representatives saying that the emergency services needed radio spectrum to be freed up as soon as possible.

9/11 radio failures
They cited the problems encountered during the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks, when a lack of available frequencies hampered fire, police and ambulance services, and said it was vital radio space was made available urgently.

Looks like this one will run and run – or rather won't, as the transition date is now less than three weeks away.

Perhaps we should offer them the lend of a pink van, our cheery switcheroverer and his robotic travelling companion, Digit Al...

Picture: VisMedia

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.