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NAB Says NTIA Converter Box Program Falls Short

A day after the National Telecommunications & Information Administration held its first public hearing on new DTV-to-analog converter box rules, the National Association of Broadcasters has weighed in saying the program "does not go far enough."

That came in an e-mailed statement from NAB President David Rehr. Though he did not specificy how the NTIA program falls short, it is likely a matter of money. Broadcasters are looking to Congress to boost funding for the program. The last Congress set aside up to $1.5 billion to subsidize roughly two thirds of the cost--$40 of about $60 per--for up to 33.5 million converter boxes that will allow analog-only sets to receive digital broadcasts after the digital switch in February 2009.

Broadcasters point out that there are currently 73 million or so analog-only sets and are worried that even with the migration to digital receivers, there is not enough money to make all analog-only viewers whole before the government-mandated switch.

"As we move closer to the February 2009 date for turning off analog television," said Rehr, "NAB welcomes continued Congressional oversight on an issue of critical importance to millions of Americans." That was a reference to the views of some in the powerful congressional Democratic majority--John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that the program was underfunded.

"Our overriding goal going forward remains the same: to ensure that all homes and all 73 million television sets that rely on an over-the-air TV signal do not lose access to local broadcast programming.

"Although NTIA's announcement is a step in the right direction, its proposal does not go far enough to meet this goal."

The new rules have

already drawn fire

from some in Congress.