FCC lays out rules to complete DTV transition

On Dec. 22, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Report and Order tackling issues needing resolution before the Feb. 17, 2009, transition to DTV service, including setting that date as the construction deadline for stations building digital facilities for their new post-transition channel slot.

The R&O lays out the commission’s plan to focus on overseeing the construction of digital broadcast facilities as the final 14 months tick off the clock to the DTV transition deadline. The commission’s aim is ensuring broadcasters “meet their statutory responsibilities” and launch digital transmission on the deadline.

The R&O, which was released to the public on Dec. 31 relieves stations returning their analog channel assignment and moving to a new digital channel slot post transition from the obligation of completing construction of a digital facility on their pre-transition DTV channel. Such stations can forego additional construction of a pre-transition DTV facility.

For stations that will operate their post-deadline digital transmitter on the same frequency as their pre-transition DTV channel and already have a construction permit for that channel, the R&O sets up May 18, 2008, as the deadline to complete construction. Stations with the same pre- and post-transition DTV channel assignment that don’t currently have a construction permit will have until Aug. 18, 2008, to complete construction.

Stations with unique technical challenges to overcome before the transition will have until Feb. 17, 2009, to complete construction. An example would be the need to reposition a side-mounted antenna, the R&O said.

The commission’s action also requires all full-power television stations to file Form 387 by Feb. 18, 2008, to detail the status of their transition, the steps that must be taken to complete it by the February 2009 deadline and a timeline for doing so.

The R&O makes clear that existing rules will allow a television station to reduce or cease service temporarily on its pre-transition digital or analog channel for up to 30 days when doing so is required to complete construction of a post-transition digital plant. Doing so requires such a station to notify the commission before proceeding.

Under the R&O, a station is granted permission to permanently reduce or terminate analog or pre-transition digital service before Feb. 17, 2009, if it can show the reduction or termination is related to construction and operation of its own or another station’s post-transition digital facility and if it tells viewers on its pre-transition channel about the upcoming reduction or termination and how to continue to receive the station.

Beginning Nov. 19, 2008, the commission will let stations permanently reduce or terminate analog or pre-transition digital service without prior FCC approval. Stations doing so must notify the commission of their intent to do so 30 days prior and also must inform viewers of their plans and where they can be found.

For more information, visit: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-07-228A1.pdf.