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More Than 900 Stations Wait for June

(March 18, 2009) WASHINGTON: A total of 927 TV stations intend to terminate analog broadcasting come June 12, according to the FCC’s tally. The remaining 158 stations intend to shut down between now and the final June 12 deadline.

The FCC last week issued rules for the TV stations that hadn’t already cut analog signals on or before Feb. 17, the original deadline set by Congress nearly three years ago. When it became apparent to the current administration that millions of households would lose TV service on that date were all stations to transition, a conditional voluntary extension to June 12 was passed.

Around 640 full-power TV stations are currently digital-only. Another 1,085 are on the FCC’s list to do so between March 30 and June 12. Those stations had to notify the commission by St. Paddy’s when they planned to cut analog signals.

NBC has the largest number of affiliates staying up through June 12 with around 147. CBS is next with 141, followed by 140 ION stations, 135 ABCs, 102 Fox affiliates, 124 PBS member stations, 55 indies, 51 CWs, 32 MyNetwork TVs, 37 Univision stations, 15 Telefutura, 13 Telemundo and a smattering of Shop At Home, RTN, Christian and ethnic broadcasters.

The FCC set a variety of conditions for termination prior to June 12, and set April 16 as the earliest shut-off date with the exception of financially strapped educational stations. Among those, 23 PBS members are shutting down between March 30 and April 6.

A few more are among the 78 stations transitioning to digital-only on April 16. More than 100 stations total will be shutting down in April; another 23 in May, and the rest in June. One station, KWWF-TV, an Equity Media indie in Waterloo, Iowa, is shutting down June 11. --Deborah D. McAdams

FCC Sets DTV End-Game Rules

Stations must warn of signal loss and reception boondoggles; and notify by March 17 if shutting down early

(March 13, 2009) WASHINGTON: The FCC today issued its rules for the remaining 12 weeks of the nation’s transition from analog to digital-only television. One-third of the nation’s 1,800 or so full-power TV stations pulled the plug on analog Feb. 17. The rest must do so by June 12. Those still transmitting analog signals are subject to this FCC order.

Signal loss: Stations must provide on-air and other notifications of potential signal loss if 2 percent or more of their analog viewers are predicted to lose service, regardless of whether stations gain viewers in other areas.

Antennas: All stations must include information about the use of antennas as part of their consumer education campaigns, including additional information if they are changing from the VHF to UHF bands and viewers may need additional or different equipment to avoid loss of service

Scanning: Stations must inform and remind viewers about the importance of periodically using the rescan function of their digital televisions and digital converter boxes. During the time surrounding the conclusion of the transition, many stations will be changing the service areas and the broadcast frequencies of their digital transmissions. As a result, viewers will need to periodically rescan during this period in order to ensure that they are correctly receiving all the digital broadcast services available to them.

“The guiding principle here is simple--consumers deserve to know the truth,” said Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps. “They will forgive a lot, but they won’t forgive being lulled into a false sense that the transition will be less disruptive or less expensive than it turns out to be.”

The order also establishes procedures for stations to terminate analog service before June 12, if they so choose. Such stations are required to notify the commission by March 17, though termination permission to terminate before April 16 is unlikely.

“However, noncommercial stations experiencing significant financial hardship may terminate analog service beginning on March 27,” the FCC said.

Previous requirements, adopted before the initial Feb. 17 deadline, are reiterated in this order so people continue to get critical news and emergency information. Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC affiliates that want to shut down before June 12 must ensure that at least 90 percent of their analog audience will continue receiving TV service from another major affiliate. Stations of such affiliates can either distribute the regular programming lineup or air and enhanced nightlight service of news, public affairs and emergency information.

In the event that 10 percent of analog viewers of a major network affiliate lose service from all major network affiliates in their market, one of those stations has to provide assistance and public outreach, or all can do so collectively.

Broadcasters may terminate at any time of day on their final end date as long as they first notify the commission.

The FCC Media Bureau Staff contact is Eloise Gore at  202-41....