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Senate Panel Mandates All-Digital TV Broadcasts By 2009

A Senate panel yesterday set a deadline of April 7, 2009 to require television stations to switch to all-digital broadcasts, and requiring that the airwaves be returned to the government, according to the Reuters news agency. The government would sell off some of the wireless spectrum for $10 billion or more, while the remainder would be used for emergency responders.

The legislation, approved by the Senate Commerce Committee, still has to clear the full Senate, be merged with a bill in the House, and signed into law before it would take effect.

In order for existing analog television sets to work, a converter box, costing about $50 would be required. The Senate panel approved subsidies of up to $3 billion to help low-income people buy them.