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FCC issues DTV transition call sign procedures

The Media Bureau of the FCC has set the procedures for full-power television stations to secure their preferred station call sign after the June 12 mandated analog spectrum shutoff. In a Public Notice, the commission said full-power stations can retain or change their call sign.

At the beginning of the digital transition, almost all full-power television stations were assigned a second digital channel to operate in conjunction with their existing analog channel. During the transition, most stations retained their existing analog call sign (i.e., WFCC or WFCC-TV) and were assigned the same call sign for their associated digital facility with the suffix “-DT” to differentiate the digital from the analog signal (i.e., WFCC-DT).

The station’s existing analog call sign remained as its official call sign for purposes of the Commission’s Consolidated Database System (CDBS). As stations cease operation of their analog facilities on June 12 and transition to digital-only service, they can choose to use either the –TV or –DT suffix after their preassigned call letters.

The FCC said stations may use their existing analog call sign for their on-air identification and should continue to use it for purposes of accessing CDBS. Stations that want to use the “-DT” suffix rather than their analog call sign may elect to do so without charge through the commission’s online call sign authorization and reservation system after they have completed their permanent transition to digital service.

Digital-only stations that did not have an analog channel will, by default, retain their digital “– DT” suffix call sign. These stations, however, have the same flexibility to use the digital suffix and may, after the June 12 transition has been completed, request a change from “-DT” to “-TV.”

Similarly, if their four-letter call sign does not require a suffix because it is not in use by another station, they may request that four-letter call sign without a suffix.

As for the DTV transition itself, the NAB said that 974 full-power stations will terminate analog service on June 12. This includes:

  • 175 that will switch between midnight and 6 a.m.;
  • 200 that will switch between 6 a.m. and noon;
  • 152 that will switch between noon and 6 p.m.; and
  • 447 that will switch between 6 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.

Note that 784 stations have already switched to digital, and six more stations will transition by June 11.