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US looks for firmer digital TV deadline

Auction must raise at least $5bn

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The US's television industry will have to make the switch from analogue to digital by 7 April 2009, paving the way for a spectrum auction that would have to raise at least $5bn, if draft legislation in the US comes into force.

According to Reuters, the Senate Commerce Committee is set to consider the bill on Wednesday this week, meaning they could include the money they expect it to raise in the next budget planning session.

The draft calls for the auction to begin 28 January, 2008, and requires that it raise no less than $4.81bn for the US Treasury. According to government estimates, the auction could raise up to $10bn.

The money raised could be put towards a fund to help TV owners buy the kit they need to upgrade their TV boxes to receive digital signals. The US government says that around 21m households in the US still rely on broadcast TV only.

Currently, TV stations will be required to make the switch by 31 December, 2006, or when 85 per cent of the TV audience can see the new digital signals, whichever comes later. Since this could take up to a decade, Congress has been under pressure to establish a more definite deadline. ®

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