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Commerce Committee Eyes Berlin’s DTV Switch

Leaders of the House Commerce Committee Tuesday asked the General Accounting Office to examine Berlin’s switch to digital television to see if the U.S. can glean any lessons from the city’s experience.

Berlin required its TV stations to convert to all-digital transmissions in August, while the U.S. faces an open-ended switch that is expected to miss a Dec. 31, 2006, target date by a long shot. Senior Commerce Committee members, including Chairman Billy Tauzin and ranking Democrat John Dingell, want the GAO to determine whether Berlin’s experience is viewed as a success.

More specifically, the accounting and investigative arm of Congress was ordered to find out whether Berlin broadcasters are multicasting or offering a HD signal, and the extent to which cable and satellite subscribers must upgrade to new equipment. The GAO also will examine whether the government subsidized converter boxes allowing analog sets to receive digital signals, as well as determine the cost and availability of digital sets in the city.