The Federal Communications Commission is going to allow the perpetuation of an unusual quirk in the TV business associated with the digital transition: what had been a temporary change in call sign format that allowed broadcasters to expand from the traditional four-letter address to a six-letter sign.
During the transition, TV stations that have either been simulcasting analog and digital signals or that began broadcasting in digital have appended their digital channel call signs with a suffix, either -DT or -TV.
The FCC says that after the final deadline on June 12, broadcast stations can revert to their old four-letter call signs, or, if they choose, they can keep the suffix (switching will require some paperwork; there will be no charge for the process).
This appears to be the first time since just after the beginning of radio that call signs longer than four letters have received blanket blessing by the FCC.
At the same time, Acting Chairman Michael Copps released a letter commenting on the imminent transition using an informal voice, unusual in politics, that is quickly becoming something of a trademark for him. He reminded that there will be no more extensions of the deadline after June 12, and also made the case that the delay from February to June was fully and completely justified.
“Nine days. We’re down to single digits. In nine days, full-power analog broadcasting will come to an end in the United States. And it will come to an end. Anyone who thinks there’s a chance of another delay had better wake up and smell the converter box. This transition is taking place on June 12. This is not a drill.
“The good news is that we are in considerably better shape now than we were four months ago. We were nowhere near ready for a nationwide transition in February. Had we flipped the switch then, we would have faced a consumer debacle that would have made New Coke look like a stroke of marketing genius,” Copps wrote.
He explained that the FCC and the industry in general learned some truly valuable lessons in the partial transition in February.
“We still seem to be learning, for instance, about how DTV signals propagate and how the VHF and UHF bands propagate differently. This is a perfect example of an issue that could have been, and should have been, identified and tested long ago rather than something we are scrambling to get our arms around days before the switch.”