The Senate has reportedly once again approved the extension of the digital television transition date from February 17 to June 12 (see Press Release from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison here). This approval was necessary as the bill being considered by the House of Representatives is slightly different than the one passed by the Senate on Monday. Now – it’s back to the House, which failed yesterday to pass that bill by a 2/3 vote (see our post here). Under the expedited process that was being used, the failure to get a 2/3 vote meant that the legislation did not pass. The legislation now must got through the normal consideration process in the House, being first approved by committee, then voted on by the full House – with only a majority needed to approve the measure. The House is going to be out of session tomorrow through Monday, so the committee that now needs to consider the bill could review it next Tuesday, and then it could be voted on by the full House on Wednesday. So if all goes as planned, there could be an extension approved next week. If the House process somehow gets held up, the President and the FCC cannot act on any extension without action by Congress, as the February 17 date is written into law and can only be changed by a new law. Given that the transition is only 3 weeks away, and the extension of the transition is still not a certainty, what is a television station to do?
Initially, stations should proceed as if the February 17th deadline will stick as, for now, it is the law. So keep running all the required crawls, snipes and tickers promoting the upcoming termination of analog television. If an extension is passed, these announcements will only have caused more people to get ready for a transition that will occur sooner or later. But the extension will also allow stations to opt to transition before the new June deadline, and cease their analog operations early. How do these stations proceed?