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DTV Transition Generally Rated Successful

The June 12 cessation of U.S. full power analog television broadcasting went into the record books as mostly uneventful.

The nearly four month reprieve from the earlier shutoff date last February apparently helped many off-air viewers prepare for the switch in transmission modes, and even last minute adopters found stores well stocked with the necessary DTV converter boxes.

A total of 975 television broadcasters wrapped up analog transmissions last Friday, impacting an estimated 15 million households. The National Association of Broadcasters reported that 317,450 calls for help were received by a national call center on that day.

"America is the first large country in the world to complete the transition to all-digital broadcasting, and our early reports show that the transition has been a success," said Jonathan Collegio, NAB vice president for digital television. "Television broadcasters, from local stations to major networks, took the lead in educating and prompting viewers to take advantage of the numerous benefits of free digital television. The broadcaster campaign elevated public awareness from 38 percent to over 98 percent in two short years."

The FCC reported that there was no widespread disruption of television service following the Friday shutdown of hundreds of analog transmitters. Most of the problems fielded by the commission’s call center were resolved by walking viewers through rescanning procedures for their converter boxes or DTV tuners.

"I am pleased with the way our FCC team responded to the technical challenges that arose throughout the course of the day," said Michael Copps, acting FCC Chairman. "But our job is far from over. This transition is not a one-day affair. We will continue to work with every consumer who needs assistance in making this important and necessary transition."

The FCC said that the largest number of calls reporting reception problems came from the Chicago area. That market was followed in volume of calls from those served by the Dallas/Ft. Worth, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore DMAs.

Some major market stations that reverted back to their former analogVHF channel allocations were reported to be especially troublesome to receive post-transition. This was attributed in part to a less than ideal radiated power situation caused by the number and proximity of stations falling back to VHF channels slots. The FCC is working with these stations to try and achieve a solution to losses in coverage. Also, even though converter boxes were plentiful, receiving antennas were said to be in short supply by some retailers.

Other fallout from the analog shutdown included the demise of some 35 full power stations that elected not to come back up in digital. Seventeen of these stations were Equity Media properties,.The company had previously declared bankruptcy and put stations on the auction block. Other telecasters in this category were reported to be having technical difficulties in switching over to digital and may be coming back to life in the months ahead. Fox and other networks were carried by some of these fallen stations, but in some cases plans were made for this programming to be carried on ancillary channels of surviving stations in those affected markets.

One of the players with a stake in spectrum vacated by television broadcasters operating in "out of core" prior to the June 12 analog shutdown is MediaFLO. Although there has been no recent statement from the mobile TV provider about the prospects for expansion of its mobile TV service, the company was reported earlier this year in a position to lose a substantial amount of revenue due to the slipping of the DTV transition from February to June. MediaFLO had been poised to start nationwide mobile TV service shortly after the February transition date.