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No House DTV Vote This Week

There will be no vote on the House DTV transition bill until at last next week.

The budget reconciliation bill has been delayed. Republicans apparently didn't have the votes to pass the larger bill, with Democrats complaining it was an attempt to cut key programs to save Republican tax cuts.

Democrats had similarly characterized the House DTV bill, which only allocated $990 million for analog-to-digital subsidies, not enough to cover all the people who will need it, while returning billions from analog spectrum auctions to the general treasury.

Even if the House bill passes, many of its provisions including cable downconversion of the HDTV/DTV signal and a consumer education campaign, may have to be stripped in conference to closer match the Senate version, which has already passed.

The resulting bill will be subject to Senate rules that prevent legislating on budget bills. The Senate had much more in its DTV transition bill originally, but was required to cut it to meet those rules.

That would leave issues like multicasting must-carry and downconversion to a second DTV bill the Senate Commerce Commitee is working on.

Whether in conference on budget bill provisions or in a second bill, the House and Senate must still resolve the difference between the hard date for the DTV transition--Dec. 31, 2008 in the House; April 7, 2009 in the Senate) and the subsidy amount--$990 million in the House; $3 billion in the Senate.