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Obama Urges DTV Transition Delay

Kay Baily Hutchison says it's too soon to call for postponement

President-elect Barack Obama is urging Congress to postpone the Feb. 17 switch from analog to digital television broadcasting, fearing that too many citizens won’t be ready.

The incoming administration is pushing for a delay in part because the Commerce Department has run out of money for the coupons that subsidize digital TV converter boxes for consumers. People who don’t have cable or satellite TV or a new TV with a digital tuner will need the converter boxes to continue to receive TV programming.

Obama officials are also concerned that the government is not giving consumers enough help with the TV transition.

Senator John Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., now Chairman of the Commerce Committee, agreed with the request, saying, “There’s too much at stake for consumers and for public safety to simply cross our fingers and hope for the best when it comes to the digital television transition. Millions of Americans could be left in the dark if this doesn’t go smoothly.”

The administration, said Rockefeller, deserves time to bring order to what has been “an appallingly mismanaged process by the Bush administration.”

Ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas said it’s too early to call for a delay and could add to the confusion about the digital transition. She said that increased focus is needed to fix the anticipated coupon shortage before the Feb. 17 transition date.