White House expects digital TV delay until June

WASHINGTON Sun Feb 1, 2009 9:35pm EST

Exhibitors look over Samsung televisions in the Las Vegas Convention Center during set up for 2007 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Nevada in this file photo from January 6, 2007. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Exhibitors look over Samsung televisions in the Las Vegas Convention Center during set up for 2007 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Nevada in this file photo from January 6, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Steve Marcus

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration said on Friday it expects the U.S. House to approve legislation that would delay until June the planned nationwide transition to digital television.

"We anticipate that the House will pass a delay on DTV until June 12," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

The transition, which was mandated by Congress, is now scheduled to occur on February 17.

The U.S. Senate has already approved legislation to delay the transition because of worries that some 20 million mostly poor, elderly and rural households that have older television sets receiving analog signals are not ready for the change.

On Wednesday, a House bill to postpone the transition did not gain the required two-thirds support under special rules adopted for the vote.

However, the House is expected to vote again on the legislation in a way that would require only a simple majority for passage.

Democratic lawmakers and consumer groups have urged a delay, saying that more than a million people are waiting for $40 government coupons to subsidize the cost of converter boxes needed by those with old TV sets. The agency that runs the program ran out of coupons earlier this month.

A delay in the transition is being closely watched by telephone companies AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc, which paid some $16 billion to use the spectrum freed up by the switch.

(Reporting by Julie Vorman, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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