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Year of the Ox

Perseverant and reliable—the qualities most inherent in the Chinese zodiac for 2009, the year of the Ox. Had the broadcast industry not had a bit of the Ox, very little may have been left of it for the year of the Tiger.

A new administration arrived in January. The DTV transition, scheduled for February, was pushed back to June so more people could prepare. The fed spent $1.4 billion on a subsidy program to equip old analog TVs with digital reception.

Julius Genachowski was just then taking the reins of the FCC with a charge of developing nationwide, wireless broadband. The radio frequencies that the public and broadcasters had just invested billions in for DTV became a takeover target for the wireless industry and its powerful lobbies in Washington, D.C. Twenty-two weeks after the DTV transition, the FCC commenced the process of relieving the broadcast industry of spectrum.

Meanwhile, the television broadcast industry had its worst year on record.

January: The 10 Pappas TV stations were sold out of bankruptcy in January. Broadcasters in 22 markets commit to launch mobile DTV during the year.

February: Some 400 TV stations ceased analog broadcasting on Feb. 17. The FCC gets 28,000 calls within hours. Mobile media ad revenues are projected at $3.1 billion for 2013. Young Broadcasting files Chapter 11. Hearst-Argyle writes off $940 million.

March: The Connecticut School of Broadcasting abruptly shuts down. LIN TV, Fisher, Gray and Barrington write down a collective $1.4 billion on TV licenses. Belo imposes pay cuts. Gannett furloughs employees. Charter files Chapter 11.

April: Journal Communications cuts pay. LG demos mobile DTV receivers. Barrington defaults. Equity Media TV stations are sold at auction. Chrysler, the seventh largest advertiser in the country, files for Chapter 11.

May: Hearst takes Hearst-Argyle private. ION Media files Chapter 11. David Rehr steps down as chief of NAB. The founder of the Connecticut School of Broadcasting buys it back.

June: GM files Chapter 11. Analog TV broadcasting end; 2.5 million homes lose service. Michael Jackson’s death dominates TV news.

July: Lawmakers press for spectrum inventory. Sinclair warns of bankruptcy. New Vision Television files Chapter 11. Broadcast revenues average double-digit declines.

August: Microsoft unveils “WhiteFi.” LIN TV writes off another $40 million. The main TV transmitter site serving Los Angeles, Mt. Wilson, is engulfed in flames.

September: Gray conducts mobile DTV tests. Freedom Communications files Chapter 11. Former Sen. Gordon Smith is tapped to lead the NAB. A tsunami hits American Samoa, where broadcast EAS is credited for saving lives.

October: Acrodyne shuts down. Lawmakers move to outlaw loud commercials. Microsoft gets its first white-space licenses. Claudville, Va., launches a white-space broadband network.

November: Half of U.S. homes have HDTV screens. California limits the energy they can use. Broadcasters sue music licensor SESAC. Pressure mounts to reallocate broadcast spectrum for broadband.

December: Comcast buys NBC Universal. The FCC opens up an inquiry into the best use of broadcast spectrum. Mobile media advertising is projected to generate $3.48 billion in 2010. No stations have launched mobile DTV commercially.