WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US House of Representatives handed President Barack Obama his first legislative setback on Wednesday, rejecting his call to delay next month's planned nationwide shift to digital television.
The Senate unanimously agreed on Monday to delay the switch from an analog to a digital signal, which had been scheduled for February 17, until June 12 but the House rejected the move in a 258 to 168 vote on Wednesday.
Democrats enjoy a majority in the House but the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage of the bill without amendments.
There was no immediate reaction from the White House but Democratic Representative Henry Waxman of California, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, blamed Republicans for the bill's defeat.
"I am very disappointed the House Republicans blocked the DTV extension today in the House," he said in a statement.
"A clear majority in Congress supports postponing the transition and providing assistance to the millions of households that are unprepared."
Waxman left open the possibility that the bill may return to the House floor under rules which would allow for its passage by a simple majority.
"I am working with the Obama administration and congressional leadership to explore all available options," he said.
Before he took office, Obama's transition team had called for the switch to digital to be delayed, arguing th
at many people were not yet ready for the end of analog broadcasting by the major US television networks.
The government has been providing Americans who rely on over-the-air signals with a 40-dollar coupon to defray the cost of buying a digital converter box.
But the coupon program has run out of funds and, according to research firm Nielsen Co., more than 6.5 million American households are not prepared for the move.
Many of the unprepared are low-income househ
olds, minorities, seniors or disabled, according to Nielsen.
The switch to digital television will free up wireless airwaves for public safety agencies and other advanced mobile services.
Gary Shapiro, president of the powerful Consumer Electronics Association, issued a statement following th
e House vote saying that a delay would be "costly, affects broadcasters and affects emergency responders."
"We pledge our full support for a successful transition to DTV even if the date is extended, and we urge Congress to take all necessary steps to ensure adequate supply of converter boxes and to educate consumers regarding the date change," Shapiro added.
From Google News.
This may be the best illustration of the state of the DTV transition. Note the name on the car: