FCC Grants DTV Construction Deadlines for 29 Stations, Admonishes Two Others

Although 1,009 out of 1,196 commercial TV stations have commenced DTV broadcasting, some stations are finding it difficult to meet the construction deadlines. The FCC rules require that requests for a third extension of a station's construction deadline have to be considered by the full Commission. Last week, the FCC considered 35 requests for a third extension. Four of the requests were from satellite TV stations, which are full-power stations authorized to retransmit all or part of the programming of a parent station. Since the FCC has deferred the DTV construction deadlines for satellite TV stations pending the outcome of the DTV periodic review proceeding, the FCC gave these stations relief from the deadlines. The FCC is considering allowing satellite TV stations to "flash-cut" to DTV at the end of the transition.

For the 29 stations granted extensions, one station's construction was delayed due to problems obtaining a lease for antenna space on the Empire State Building after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. WFUT-DT, Newark N. J., has obtained an STA to operate from an alternative site and is working to install equipment there. Four stations - KOLN-DT, WAWD-DT, WJHG-DT and KXLA-DT- were granted extensions due to documented problems with tower construction or technical problems with their antenna. Eleven stations are either awaiting FCC action on construction permit modifications or channel changes, or received authorizations recently and have had insufficient time to complete construction. The Commission found, "the stations took the necessary steps to complete the Commission proceeding, but were unable to do so prior to their DTV construction deadline" and were entitled to extensions. Fourteen stations were granted extensions due to construction being delayed due to financial difficulty.

The FCC said two stations, WBHQ-DT in Sumter S.C. and WCOV-DT, Montgomery Ala. "provided little support for their third extension requests. Little explanation was given for their inability to place their stations into operation since the grant of their last extension request. Although the stations claim that there was a delay in construction, they provided little or no support for their contentions nor did they explain what steps they had taken to reduce the delay."

The FCC warned, "Stations may not rely on unsupported delays to justify an extension."

The stations were denied requests for unqualified extensions and required within 30 days upon release of the FCC Order to report the steps they intended to take to complete construction, and the approximate data expected to reach each construction milestone. Sixty days after the initial report, the stations have to submit reports detailing construction progress and justifying any delay in meeting the milestones.

The Order states, "These stations should understand that, as a result of being placed in the remedial program, the burden will be greater to demonstrate the propriety of any failure to complete their DTV construction. If at the end of the six-month period, the station has not completed construction, we will issue a Notice of Apparent Liability unless the station can demonstrate that its inability to complete construction was due to extraordinary and compelling circumstances, such as a new, unanticipated, intervening event. Stations will be required to fully detail and document the delays they have experienced and must show that they took every reasonable step to prevent such delays."

For more details on problems the stations granted extensions experienced, refer to the
Order FCC-04-124
. KOLN-DT's problems with tower construction were especially compelling.