Testifying before Congress

Behind The News
July 28, 2008 1:55:34 PM PDT
As I was asked to raise my right hand and swear to tell the truth, I flashed back to all the other Congressional hearing swearing-ins I've seen - the Big Tobacco executives (who lied), the Watergate conspirators (who lied), the Iran Contra conspirators (who lied).

Not the best thing perhaps to think about when you're being sworn in, but I had never testified at a Congressional hearing before. Until today.

I testified at a Congressional Subcommittee hearing into the transition from analog TV to digital. It's a huge deal - all of the old analog TV sets will, essentially, stop getting over-the-air broadcast signals after Feb. 17, 2009, as broadcasters across the country switch to all digital transmissions.

The pictures are clear and crisp, the images enhanced.

Broadcasters, retailers, the general public, and elected officials have an enormous task ahead of them. Most people have nothing to worry about with this transition. But there are some who do - in our Tri-State area it numbers a couple of hundred thousand households which still have analog TVs. For those people, unless they get cable or satellite or get an analog converter box, they will no longer receive over-the-air programs after Feb. 17.

How to get the word out? Maybe you've seen the Public Service Announcements we broadcast - hundreds in the past couple of months. And we're going to broadcast even more leading up to the deadline, seven months from now.

The federal government - which wanted this change so it could sell, at substantial income, the broadcast spectrums of the old analog system to wireless providers -- is funding the new converters to the tune of $1.5 billion, or $40 for each converter. Our job is to let people know how they can get these "coupons" and that the deadline is approaching.

Hence my testimony. CLICK HERE and you can read it.

Leading the hearing were New York Congressional Representatives Edolphus Towns and Yvette Clark - both from Brooklyn.

Much more to come in the following months on this subject - but in the meantime, if you want to know more, log on to our website, 7online.Com. Click here to visit our DTV section.

You might even see a snippet of my testimony on our 11 p.m. newscast tonight.

We'll have any breaking news of the night, including Barack Obama's visit to Iraq and Afghanistan, plus Lee Goldberg's weekend AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11.

And one more note: I'll be out of the office next week. This column will return Monday, July 28.