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House Holding Hearing on Mexican Border DTV

It appears that the group of TV stations on the border with Mexico opposed to a bill allowing them to continue in analog after the Feb. 17, 2009, digital-TV-transition date got the attention they were looking for from Capitol Hill.

The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet is holding a DTV-status hearing Sept. 16. Although the witness list has not been announced, according to Kevin Lovell, general manager of KVIA-TV El Paso, Texas, within one hour of a group of those station GMs faxing a letter Tuesday evening to, among others, the chairman of that subcommittee, the group got an invitation to testify at that hearing.

Lovell told B&C that John Kittleman of KRGV-TV Harlingen, Texas, was invited to testify, as was a representative of Entravision Communications, which owns Spanish-language stations and has advocated for the bill. That bill would give border stations an extra five years to broadcast in analog, as well as digital.

The bill's backers, including co-sponsor Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), said they are concerned that Spanish-speaking populations along both sides of the border, who are heavily analog-only viewers, will lose access to emergency information.

Lovell and the other GMs of primarily English-language stations argued that a mix of analog and digital will be confusing, expensive and unnecessary.

A Subcommittee spokesman had no comment on the industry witnesses lined up, saying that the list was not finalized. But a source said Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, National Telecommunications and Information Administration acting chief Meredith Attwell Baker and a representative of the Government Accountability Office, which has been tracking the issue for Congress, were invited.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.