FCC Extends DTV Deadlines, Again

The FCC has taken action on 141 stations that requested a third, six-month extension of the May 1, 2002 DTV deadline. Of these, 104 received extensions, seven were "admonished," and 30 were left undecided.

The 104 stations receiving a third extension pleaded everything from poverty to construction and equipment delays, tower siting problems; the WTC collapse, and limbo due to pending FCC action on rulemakings or applications. According to the FCC, those stations managed to "demonstrate that failure to construct has been due to circumstances either unforeseeable or beyond their control." Additionally, they had to show that they'd made a reasonable effort to make progress.

The seven stations that were admonished--WVUE in New Orleans, La.; WICZ in Binghamton, N.Y.; WKBW in Buffalo, N.Y.; KMVU in Medford, Ore.; WSJU in San Juan, Puerto Rico; WDWL in Bayamon, Puerto Rico; WJAR in Providence, R.I.--were given six months to get a digital signal on the air or face fines. If, after receiving a fine, a station is still not broadcasting digitally, the FCC's next proscribed step is to pull its DTV construction permit. None of the 71 stations that were admonished during the second round of extensions reached the stage of getting fined.

The 30 undecided stations are actually satellite stations, that is, full- power terrestrial broadcast stations authorized to retransmit all or part of the programming of a commonly owned parent station. The FCC is still considering whether or not to allow these satellites to "flash cut" to digital transmission when analog goes down, so the agency deferred construction deadlines for these stations until that issue is resolved.