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UPDATE 1-US networks to keep TV in analog amid DTV delay

(Adds details from meeting, other broadcasters)

WASHINGTON, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Major U.S. television networks CBS Corp CBS.N, General Electric Co's GE.N NBC and Walt Disney Co's DIS.N ABC will transmit TV signals in analog until the new June deadline for a national switch to digital signals, a top regulator said on Thursday.

Michael Copps, the acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, thanked the broadcasters at a public meeting on the nation’s preparedness for the transition to digital TV. The congressionally-mandated switch will free up spectrum for public safety use and will provide better television viewing.

News Corp's NWSA.O Fox Network also agreed to keep broadcasting in analog. Gannett Co GCI.N and Hearst-Argyle Television HTV.N have said most of their stations will keep the older signals.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to delay the change by four months, to June 12 from Feb. 17. The Senate voted to approve the delay last month. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.

Backers of the delay are worried that 20 million mostly poor, elderly and rural households were not prepared after the government ran out of $40 coupons intended to defray the cost of TV converter boxes.

The legislation allows broadcasters to switch to digital before the new date. Continuing broadcasts in analog as well will prevent many viewers from losing channels in the interim.

There is also $650,000 in the economic stimulus bill winding its way through Congress to pump more money into the digital TV converter coupon program.

“We believe it is extremely important to make sure the number of boxes in stock throughout the country continues to keep pace with the recent spike in demand,” Consumers Union analyst Joel Kelsey said.

At its meeting, one FCC commissioner expressed concern that the delay until June might confuse some consumers.

“Will consumers be even more confused about the cut-off date?” asked Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican.

Lamenting a lack of reliable data, McDowell added, “we have no way of knowing where the unprepared are.”

TV station members of the National Association of Broadcasters are beginning to air revised viewer alerts with the new date, president David Rehr told the FCC.

In the Washington, D.C. area, broadcasters had blanketed the Metro subway stations with the February date, and now industry and government must recast their advertisements and public service announcements. (Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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