Senate votes to delay digital switch

Transition date would move to June 12

NEW YORK -- Congress moved one step closer to delaying the digital TV transition until June, with Senate passage late Monday of a bill moving that date until June.

The passage by unanimous consent follows a compromise bill, with the support of Democrats and Republicans, made Friday night by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va. Rockefeller's DTV Delay Act pushes the transition to June 12 while allowing broadcasters to switch earlier and helps alleviate the problems with the converter box coupon program.

"The shameful truth is that we are not poised to do this transition right," Rockefeller said in announcing the compromise. "We are only weeks away from doing it dreadfully wrong -- and leaving consumers with the consequences." Rockefeller was joined in the new bill by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, the ranking member of the Rockefeller's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The bill now goes to the House. President Barack Obama has indicated that he will sign the bill. The deadline if Congress fails to act will be Feb. 17. The industry has already spent billions of dollars in PSAs and other education efforts, consumers have spent untold millions more on new TVs and digital converter boxes.

The National Association of Broadcasters said they supported the postponement of the DTV deadline.

"We are grateful for policymaker efforts that underscore over-the-air television's importance in the fabric of American life," NAB executive vp Dennis Wharton said.