FCC Eases June 12 DTV Cutover Requirements

Broadcasters may begin post-transition DTV service "at any time" on June 12 without prior approval.
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Broadcasters may begin post-transition DTV service "at any time" on June 12 without prior approval.

The FCC this week told broadcasters it will be more flexible in enforcing its rules for digital-only broadcasting, June 12.

In an Order issued on June 2, the commission noted that it had previously granted TV stations greater flexibility in terminating analog service in its Third Report and Order on Reconsideration issued March 13, and that is was only appropriate that similar flexibility be afforded in startup of post-transition DTV operations.

The June 2 Order noted that "this slight adjustment in our procedures will facilitate the transition for stations and their viewers by allowing flexible coordination and timing with respect to both the analog termination and the commencement of post-transition digital service." The Order also observed that this change would reduce the amount of paperwork that television stations would be required to file.

In essence, the Order now allows broadcasters to begin post-transition DTV service "at any time" on June 12 without prior approval from the commission. There are some qualifiers, however.

The Order states that "we expect that stations taking advantage of this flexibility intend to commence their post-transition digital service without a significant gap in time following termination of the analog signal." This could be accomplished by continuation of regular DTV service on a station’s pre-transition digital channel until the necessary changes could be made to move to the permanent post-transition channel.

The FCC also said the broadcasters are expected to notify viewers in advance of the time the analog service would be terminated. Also, stations are still required to notify the commission if they adjust the analog termination time.

Broadcasters were advised that if they expected to have "a significant gap in service," they should make adjustments to their analog termination time, or should continue broadcasting in analog up until 11:59:59 p.m. on the evening of June 12.

Further, stations were reminded that they still had an obligation to notify the FCC, and to seek official approval, if they were planning to start post-transition DTV broadcasting prior to June 12 broadcasting on a channel and facility not authorized for pre-transition operation.

Television broadcasters must also still provide notification, either in the form of a license application or a letter reporting the startup of program tests, when they commence post-transition digital operations on June 12. If stations elect to file a notification of program test authority, they must follow up with a filing for a license application for the new facility within 10 days.

The Order also advised stations that they were still obligated to coordinate their transitions in such a way as to prevent interference to other stations operating on their pre-transition channels.