FCC Allows Early Analog Shutoff

WWAC-TV (Atlantic City, N.J.) is the first station in the nation to take advantage of an FCC policy allowing an early shutdown of its analog signal, and will become a digital-only station at an unspecified date.

The advantage for the station, according to the request by owner Lenfest Broadcasting LLC, is that the WWAC's new DTV channel 44, located on a different tower, reaches more of the Philadelphia area and can assert must-carry rights in that market, tripling the number of viewers it reaches.

Late last year, the FCC said it would consider, on a case-by-case basis, allowing stations to operate one channel instead of two during the digital transition, and to end analog broadcasts before they are otherwise required to vacate the analog channels. Analog broadcasts are scheduled to end in 2007 or when 85 percent of households in a market can receive digital signals, but federal legislation could change that.

The station says that nobody catches the over-the-air signal of WWAC and its lineup of paid programming, reality shows such as "Shipmates" and "MTV's Real World," reruns of "Rosanne" and "The Cosby Show" and evening offerings with names like "Casino Connection" and "Green Tree Mortgage."

"Thus, the loss of WWAC-TV's over-the-air analog signal would have little, if any, negative effect on the public," an attorney for the station's owner told the FCC in July.

Before ending analog service, the station must supply all cable systems carrying its digital signal with the equipment needed to translate WWAC-DT's signal to analog.

The station did not indicate a timeline for the shutdown of Channel 53.