The FCC has approved its final rules for the DTV transition, giving broadcasters more flexibility in making the switch to digital television, but conceding that “some disruption” in TV service may be unavoidable.
The rules came in the 154-page “Third Periodic DTV Review,” released last week. Some stations will be able to operate at less than full power if they have technical challenges. In some cases, that could mean not reaching up to 15 percent of their current viewers.
The rules establish May 18, 2008, as the construction deadline for stations that will use their pre-transition DTV channel for post-transition operations and already have a construction permit that matches their post-transition facilities.
Aug. 18, 2008, was set as the construction deadline for stations that will use their pre-transition DTV channel for post-transition operations, but which do not have a construction permit that matches their post-transition facilities.
Feb.17, 2009, was set as the construction deadline for stations demonstrating that a unique technical challenge, such as the need to reposition a side-mounted antenna, prevents them from completing construction of their final DTV facilities.
A station may temporarily reduce or cease service on their pre-transition analog or digital channel for a period of 30 days or less, upon notification to the FCC and without prior approval, when necessary to complete construction of the post-transition digital facility.
Within 90 days of the Feb. 17, 2009, transition date, the FCC will allow stations to permanently reduce or terminate their analog or pre-transition digital service without prior approval upon notification to the commission 30 days prior to the planned permanent service reduction or termination.
Calling the transition “not an easy task,” FCC chairman Kevin Martin said the commission made technical adjustments to its rules and policies to enable broadcasters to take the actions necessary to complete the conversion from analog to digital.
“As all major changes tend to be, the coming transition to digital television transmission is an exciting — but complicated — revolution,” he said. “The rules we adopt in this item attempt to provide broadcasters the flexibility they need while at the same time ensuring that any disruption to over-the-air viewers is minimized to the fullest extent possible.”
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