Broadcast TV stations planning to transition to digital on February 17must communicate their intention by next Monday (February 9) not only to the FCC but also to cable, satellite and IPTV providers with which they do business.

TV stations planning to make the switch at any time earlier than the new June 12 deadline will have to do likewise, though the deadlines will shift as time goes on. The dictates are from new rules published by the FCC (document here). 

“The short deadline for notification to the Commission is necessary to enable the Commission to evaluate and adjust deployment of its resources, and to coordinate with other entities, in advance of February 17 in order to prepare for analog service terminations on that date and protect the public interest,” the FCC document states.

Reactions to the delay vary.

Qualcomm, which bought licenses to the spectrum in question in order to establish a mobile video service, remained livid about the delay. The association that represents broadcast tower owners and operators also complained that the delay will create a financial hardship for its members.

Consumer Electronics Association reiterated that since the consumer electronics industry has been planning for a February 17 deadline, manufacturers may be unprepared to accommodate the demand for converter boxes going forward. 

CEA president and CEO, Gary Shapiro today said, “As CEA has repeatedly cautioned, this date change will inject uncertainty into the market and may result in a shortage of converter boxes, because manufacturers and retailers planned box inventory based on a February 17 transition date. CEA urges Congress and the Administration to take the necessary steps to ensure converter box availability and to urge consumers to act immediately to enjoy the benefits of DTV.”

The CEA may want to consult the latest data on which markets are least prepared for the transition recently published by The Nielsen Company, and also coordinate with the FCC.

Nielsen says that 5.7 percent of all U.S. households – or 6.5 million homes – are still unprepared for the switch to digital television. As of last December, Nielsen had the number of unprepared homes pegged at 7 million.

Albuquerque-Santa Fe is the least prepared market, according to Nielsen data, with 12.4 percent of the local population completely unprepared for the switch, and another 6.5 percent “partially ready” in Nielsen’s estimation.

The following markets all have at least 8 percent of consumers completely unprepared for the transition: Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Tulsa, Portland OR, Salt Lake City, Memphis, Austin, Los Angeles.

Perhaps more indicative is the very large number of markets where preparedness is either lacking or is only partial, and the combination exceeds 15 percent of consumers. These markets include Providence/New Bedford CT, Knoxville TN, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Jacksonville FL, and many others. Some of these have combination lack/partial preparedness in excess of 20 percent of the population.

“There are still millions of people who will be adversely affected because they are not ready for the digital transition. So it’s critical that we provide them with the information and resources they need to stay connected with the world,” said Ernest W. Bromley, Nielsen Hispanic/Latino Advisory Council (HLAC).

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