HD Era mandatory in 2009?

Senate Commerce Committee approves bill to make all TV transmissions digital in four years; US govt would spring for $3 billion in consumer aid.

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In his evangelization efforts to help hype the Xbox 360, J Allard has repeatedly spoken of the "HD Era." Simply put, the age Microsoft's chief XNA Architect prophesizes is one where all video-based entertainment--television, home video, and games--will be presented in the 16:9 high-definition television format. Naturally, Allard predicts the 360, which supports all games in a minimum of 720p resolution, will help accelerate the adoption of the HDTV format.

This week, though, the public found out when the Digital TV Era will be enforced--by law. Yesterday, a US Senate panel approved legislation that specified an April 7, 2009, deadline for television stations to switch entirely to DTV broadcasts, which should foster even more HD broadcasts as well as other digital services.

The Senate Commerce Committee voted 19 to 3 to approve the transition, as well as open up funds to help consumers pay for the conversion. The proposed legislation would see $3 billion of federal money allocated to owners of pre-HDTV sets to help them pay for converter boxes.

That $3 billion would let the government chip in about $40 toward the cost of a converter box for a standard TV antenna. It is estimated that 73 million TV sets still rely on antennae instead of cable or satellite TV, and converters for those sets will cost about $50 a pop.

The measure moves to the House for additional debate and a subsequent vote. However, its passage is by no means guaranteed. In 1997, the FCC issued a deadline of 2006 deadline for conversion to HDTV. That date was pushed back following protests by broadcasters, a downturn in the economy, and slower than expected consumer acceptance of the technology.

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