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FCC Grants DTV Construction Deadlines for Some Top 30 Market Stations

The FCC granted five requests from "network-affiliated" TV stations for extensions of their DTV construction permits. New York stations WABC-DT and WNBC-DT are currently on the air operating temporary DTV facilities and both are continuing to work on building DTV facilities at the Empire State Building. Both stations had completed construction of their authorized DTV facilities at the World Trade Center, but these were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Hartford Stations WTIC-DT and WFSB-DT were granted extensions. A rulemaking substituting DTV channel 31 for DTV channel 5, originally allocated for WTIC-DT, was not granted until January 8, 2003. A minor change application filed by WTIC-DT for channel 31 remains pending, so WTIC has not been able to complete construction of its DTV facility. WTIC-DT, however is currently broadcasting from a temporary facility on channel 31. WFSB was a party in the WTIC DTV channel change and maintained it could not construct its facilities while the rulemaking was pending. WFSB modified its DTV application to resolve at least part of the issues affecting its DTV operation and the CP was granted in June 2003. Construction was delayed due to local objections, but these have been resolved and the station expects to complete construction soon, weather permitting.

The final station granted an extension was WVIT-DT, New Britain, Conn. WVIT ran into trouble obtaining a zoning variance for modifications to its existing tower. After a zoning variance was obtained in March 2002, a neighboring landowner challenged the decision. That landowner's appeal of the decision was withdrawn in February 2003 after negotiations. WVIT obtained equipment and began construction of the facility, but found it had to make changes to the proposed facilities as a result of the agreement with the landowner. The CP modification was filed with the FCC and remained pending. The station, however, has completed construction of the modified facilities and is operating them under special temporary authority (STA) pending a grant of the construction permit.

The Order granting the extensions cautioned other broadcasters: "Although we grant these extension requests, we take this opportunity to remind television stations that timely implementation of DTV is the key to the success of a nationwide DTV system. We have found that expedited construction promotes DTV's competitive strength internationally, as well as domestically. We have also determined that rapid build-out ensures that the recovery of broadcast spectrum for future uses occurs as quickly as possible. We continue to expect stations seeking extensions to submit detailed justifications as to why they have been unable to complete construction of their facilities. As before, each station will be required to demonstrate that its failure to construct has been due to circumstances that were either unforeseeable or beyond its control and that the station has taken all reasonable steps to resolve the problem expeditiously. We continue to expect such requests to be supported by documentation, and for stations to be able to demonstrate each step that was taken to complete construction or to outline each unforeseeable or uncontrollable delay or event. Only when we receive a fully supported request, will we allow an additional extension of the construction period."