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UPDATE: Senate Passes DTV Nightlight Bill

A DTV nighlight bill, which would allow broadcasters to continue an analog signal for 30 days past the Feb. 17, 2009 cut-off date, passed the Senate by unanimous consent Thursday, according to the office of its sponsor, Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

The bill, the Short-Term Analog Flash and Emergency Readiness (SAFER) Act has the backing of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and the Bush administration, but a House vote cannot come until that body reconvenes Dec. 8..

At a speech at the Media Institute Thursday, Meredtih Attwell Baker, head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, said she supported the bill, calling it "a helpful step" and encouraging passage.

Emily Kryder, press secretary to Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), had said the Senate bill could be approved by unanimous consent by week's end. Capps introduced a similar bill in the House.

Baker added a caveat to her support afterwards, however, saying that her earlier concerns about the bill were that it would open the door to moving the analog cut-off date even more. What she supports, she said, is the limited extension for emergency and DTV transition information.

Baker also supports a nationwide analog soft analog cut-off test a month or so before the transition date. TV stations have been conducting individual and marketwide tests, but FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein has been pushing for a coordinated national test.

He was at Baker's speech and raised the issue again. She said she thought it was "a great idea."

The National Association of Broadcasters praised passage: "Coupled with our billion-dollar campaign to educate Americans on the digital TV transition, this timely legislation will give broadcasters one final resource to ensure that no TV viewer is left behind due to insufficient information," NAB said in a statement. "We applaud Sen. Rockefeller and his colleagues, and encourage House lawmakers to adopt similar legislation offered by Rep. Capps."