After a year and a half of angry discussions between broadcasters, cable operators and the government worrying about the fallout over the Feb. 17 switch to digital, Congress agreed to postpone the date. Some 20 million U.S. viewers--mostly poor, rural and elderly--are still unprepared.
The House voted to make the move with a 264 to 158 vote on Wednesday, after the Senate approved a bill to delay last week.
This was a victory for the new Obama Administration, which pushed for the delay because it did not want millions of Americans without TV signals. President Obama is expected to sign it into law soon.
Nielsen Media Research, in a recent estimate, says 6% of the U.S. TV households are still unprepared for the switch to digital.
A second issue: the Federal coupon program ran out of money. A $40 ticket was intended to help analog-only viewers pay for converter boxes after the switch to all digital signals.
Pushing for this bill were Democrats, who said a delay was necessary for the public safety interest; millions of Americas needed communication in the event of a national emergency.
Still, over 1,000 stations can still change to all-digital before the June 12 date, according to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC said today that 276 stations have indicated plans to transition to digital by Feb. 17.
The National Association of Broadcasters welcomed the House passage of legislation that will extend the digital TV deadline to June 12.