The U.S. Senate set the date for the digital TV transition in which broadcasters must switch to all-digital transmissions for April 7, 2009.
The bill also would provide U.S. $3 billion to help millions of Americans buy digital-to-analog converter boxes for older television sets, so those consumers will continue to receive a signal once the switch is made permanent.
Legislation approved last month by the House Energy and Commerce Committee calls for a Dec. 31, 2008, deadline and provides nearly $1 billion for the converter boxes. Differences between the measures would need to be worked out in a House-Senate conference.
National Association of Broadcasters president Eddie Fritts said the 2009 deadline "represents a victory for millions of Americans who could have been left stranded by a premature end to analog television service."
The move to an all-digital transmission will free radio spectrum, some of which will be allocated to improve radio communications among fire and police departments and other first responders.
In addition to the hard date, the Senate also set aside an additional $1 billion for public safety to buy new radio communications equipment.
Separately, the Federal Communications Commission moved the date by which small TV sets sold in the U.S., those 13 inches to 24 inches, must have tuners to receive digital signals to March 1, 2007. Sets under 13 inches will also have to have digital tuners by that date.
The commission had previously ruled that mid-sized sets, screens from 25 inches to 36 inches, be digital-ready by March 1, 2006.
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