DTV Delay Bill Fails to Muster House Majority

A bill to delay the Feb. 17 DTV transition failed to get a two-thirds majority vote Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Senate lawmakers two days ago approved a four-month postponement. What happens next for the proposal remains unclear. Democrats might put the matter up for a vote again. With the backing of President Obama, they have pushed for a delay, saying too many consumers are unprepared for the analog-to-digital conversion.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., blasted Republicans for blocking the passage of the House version of the bill.

“Consumers are confused, households are not prepared, and the coupon program for converter boxes is broken,” he said in a prepared statement. Now, instead of giving agencies and the public more time for the switch, he said, House members are endangering peoples’ access to news, information and emergency alerts.

Rockefeller heads the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees telecom policy. He took a lead role in crafting the DTV delay proposal. The Nielson Co. has said millions of Americans stand to lose their TV signals next month; the transition has been, to be quite frank, a rocky, chaotic mess. Rockefeller blamed the Bush Administration for “grossly” mismanaging the situation.

“It did not have to be this way – this situation was unnecessary and avoidable,” Rockefeller said.

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