Markey Says Push For Digital Standard Was Game-Changer

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), former Chairman of the House Telecommunications (now Communications) Subcommittee, reminded folks Thursday of his 20-year association with the digital transition in an e-mail statement, saying his push for a digital standard in the late 1980's was a "key moment" for the transition.

"When I held the first Congressional hearing on then-high definition TV (HDTV) in the early fall of 1987, " he said, "I never imagined that it would take almost 22 years to reach this moment." Markey relinquished his communications gavel this session to focus on energy policy as chairman of a select committee.

Markey said he expected there to be some "confusion and dislocation" in the switchover June 12, but added that it could and would have been much worse had not Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps appeared on the scene to quarterback the late-game comeback drive to digital. He also said the Obama administration was right to move the date, pointing to the over 3.5 million households that were able to prepare for the switch.

The game-changing moment, he said, came when the FCC decided to go with a digital rather than an analog standard--the first digital switch, as it were--and said that came after he "aggressively advocated for such a switch and successfully convinced the FCC in 1990 to begin pursuing a digital standard."

Markey cited what he called the setbacks of not requiring DTV tuners in sets earlier than the government did, and that it was "regrettable" that the FCC did not establish a multicast-must carry "opportunity" for broadcasters airing "enhanced local programming of importance to the local community."

The FCC several times declined to extend must-carry to digital beyond the replicated primary signal.

John Eggerton

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.