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Digital TV Subsidy to Speed Transition

Senator John McCain has introduced a new version of his Save Lives Act, which would provide federal funds to subsidize the purchase of new digital TV receivers by poorer Americans, so that broadcasters can switch to digital broadcasting and free analog spectrum. McCain was joined by 9/11 Commission chairman Thomas Kean, whose Commission's report called for an "expedited and increased assignment of radio spectrum for public safety purposes." McCain and Kean criticized broadcasters for dragging their feet on the matter. "Why they would choose not to act in the public interest is something they will have to answer for," McCain said. The new bill would force broadcasters to return analog spectrum to the government by the end of 2008, while also providing $463 million for 9.3 million U.S. households to purchase digital receivers; a previous version of the bill had called for $1 billion. Current law states that broadcasters don't have to switch to digital until 85% of households in a given market have digital TVs. "Local television stations provide a lifeline service during terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters," said National Association of Broadcasters president Edward Fritts. "We are committed to completing the digital transition in a timely fashion, including return of analog spectrum, and will work with Congress to ensure that millions of consumers are not left stranded by a premature end to analog broadcasting."

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