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05.15.2003
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Commission puts teeth in DTV schedule enforcement

The FCC has established a series of measures that ultimately could result in a station’s loss of its broadcast license for failing to meet its digital television (DTV) construction deadline without adequately justifying its reason for delay.

In a Report and Order released April 16, the commission adopted procedures and a timetable for actions to take when requests to extend the DTV build-out are denied.

The new procedure establishes a set of “graduated sanctions” beginning with a denial of a broadcaster’s request for an unqualified extension and an admonishment from the commission for failing to meet its DTV construction obligation.

Such a station has 30 days to file a report with the commission outlining the steps it will take to comply and the dates it plans to reach various milestones in the DTV build-out. Without “extraordinary and compelling circumstances” construction must be finished no later than six months from the admonishment. If the commission finds a station fails to take reasonable steps to meet its goal or acts in “bad faith,” it will consider other sanctions.

If the station fails to hit the six-month deadline absent extraordinary and compelling circumstances, the commission will issue a Notice of Apparent Liability for forfeiture to the licensee. It also requires that such a station report every 30 days on build-out milestones and efforts to meet them.

The commission will consider the DTV construction permit of a station that fails to comply with its DTV construction obligation within a second six month period, or one year from the date of formal admonishment, to have expired and will take the necessary steps to rescind the station’s DTV authority.

The commission authorized the Media Bureau to grant relief from these enforcement steps or issue more harsh punishment based upon individual circumstances.

The Report and Order reminded broadcasters that a station with rescinded DTV authorization will only be allowed to deliver NTSC service. “In that case, as directed by Congress, the station will be required to surrender its NTSC authorization at the end of the DTV transition.” Such a station will not be allowed to convert to digital on its analog channel allotment without having to compete for that bandwidth with other applicants.

The commission said that its newly released sanctions will give “serious incentives” for stations to complete DTV construction and set out a method for non-complying stations to finish their build-out over time.

Additionally, the commission said that overall it’s found the digital build-out to be “continuing at an acceptable rate,” but “we must be prepared to deal with those stations that do not meet their DTV construction obligation.”

For more information visit http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-03-77A1.doc.

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