FCC blocks Feb. 17 DTV switch for 123 stations

Thu, 02/12/2009 - 7:45am
Brian Santo

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has denied 123 TV stations permission to switch to digital broadcasting on Feb. 17, because the Commission determined that their “early termination poses a significant risk of substantial public harm.”

The FCC received notice from 491 TV stations claiming a waiver to transition to digital on Feb. 17; the waiver is from the national deadline extension to June 12. The FCC had earlier reserved the right to deny such waivers.

The 123 stations represent almost precisely one-quarter of the total. The FCC has eight conditions it wants met, and some are situational – which is to say, a station could comply with all regulations, but the FCC may have denied it a waiver because of the specific situation in that station’s market.

Examples of the eight provisions include:

  • At least one station in a market must continue providing an analog signal through June 12, at minimum providing information on the digital transition.
  • Nightlight service will include demonstrations of converter box installations, antenna setups and other helpful information.
  • Nightlight service information will be provided in Spanish and English.

“To assist the consumers in these markets,” the FCC announced, “the Commission is assessing and re-deploying field staff and resources to key locations where stations are terminating on February 17. We are also coordinating with our contractors, partners and industry stakeholders to provide extra support in these areas. The Commission is also mobilizing the expanded Call Center, in conjunction with industry groups, to assist with expected increase in call volume on February 17 and the days just before and after these analog terminations. We will do our utmost to assure that, with the cooperation of the stations in these markets and our outreach partners, the partial transition moves with minimum disruption to viewers.”

Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed a bill to delay the switch to digital TV to June 12.

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•  FCC blocks Feb. 17 DTV switch for 123 stations
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