FCC: More Stations Can Turn on Nightlight

The FCC expanded its list of eligible stations that qualify for the 30-Day “Nightlight” extension to the Feb. 17 DTV transition deadline.

In an order Thursday, the commission expanded pre-approval for the program, which allows emergency and DTV-related information, to 826—up from 320—including most of a list suggested by NAB and the Association for Maximum Service Television.

(Read much more on the Nightlight order in Doug Lung's RF Report.)

Pre-approvals extend now to nearly all markets in the country, up from 136 markets in the FCC’s initial notice on the matter Dec. 24.

The order also allows limited sponsorship mentions on the programming and promises leniency to broadcasters who, for technical reasons outlined by NAB and MSTV, might have to tap into their DTV signals during an emergency to carry non-emergency programming along with crisis info.

Only Channels 2-51 qualify for the Nightlight program. Full-power stations on Channels 52-69 would still have to vacate, clearing Channels 52-69 for incoming licensees including wireless providers and government users.

Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps repeated longstanding criticism of the FCC’s part on the transition. “We are nowhere near as ready as we could have been—and should have been—at this late date,” he said in a statement “At this point, the question is not whether there will be disruption, but how widespread the disruption will be and how quickly we can restore service to those who may lose it.”

The Nightlight period ends at 11:59:59 March 19—unless Congress goes ahead with legislation postponing the Feb. 17 analog shutoff date.