FCC Offers Info on July 1 'Use It or Lose It' Deadline Waivers

The FCC released information about DTV channel elections and compliance with the July 1, 2005, "use it or lose it" deadline. DTV licensees--affiliated with the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in markets 1-100--must build out their full authorized facilities if they remain on their current DTV channel or serve at least 100 percent of the number of viewers served by the 1997 facility on which their replication coverage was based--if they receive a tentative DTV channel designation on a channel different from their current DTV channel.

Stations not meeting the replication/maximization deadlines will lose interference protection in unserved areas and, if changing DTV channels, will lose the ability to carry over interference protection to its unserved DTV service area on its post-transition channel, according to the Second DTV Periodic Review Report and Order. However, the Report and Order allows the FCC to grant temporary extensions of the coverage requirement on a six-month basis if stations can demonstrate they are unable to provide the required service because of severe financial constraints or circumstances beyond the station's control.

Requests for waivers should be in letter format and filed electronically using the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS). They should reference MB Docket 03-15. Requests for extension of a special temporary authorization (STA) may also be filed with the waiver request. The STA will be extended pending action on the waiver request. An outstanding construction permit for facilities for which a waiver request was filed will also be extended pending action on the request. The Media Bureau can grant up to two six-month extensions. Unless additional extensions are allowed in the future, stations will be unable to avoid building out full DTV facilities before the expected end of analog broadcasting, which now appears to be Dec. 31, 2008.

The FCC acknowledged some stations can come close to meeting applicable replication or maximization requirements, but can't reach 100 percent replication or maximization. An example of this is a station that has a top mounted analog antenna and a side mounted DTV antenna below the analog antenna. If it switched antennas, some analog viewers would lose service. The FCC said stations in situations such as this should address the following issues when filing a waiver request:

  1. how close to full replication/maximization the station will be as of the deadline
  2. the reason the station is unable to fully comply
  3. the cost to the station and the impact on viewers if the station were required to fully comply
  4. whether the station will be able to modify its operation to fully comply after analog operation terminates (e.g., relocate their DTV antenna to the top of the tower);
  5. any other relevant factors.

Stations that have not received a DTV construction permit (CP) to build the facilities they were allotted in the 1998 DTV Table of Allotment must build their checklist facilities by Aug. 4, 2005. For these stations, the July 1 deadline will be automatically extended to Aug. 4, 2005. If they are unable to comply with the Aug. 4, 2005 deadline, they must file a request for waiver of the deadline no later than Aug. 4, 2005.

Stations with construction permits with deadlines extending beyond the July 1 deadline must meet the replication/maximization deadline by the expiration date specified in their CP. If they can't complete construction by the expiration date, they will have to file a waiver request on or before the CP expires. The FCC said any existing DTV construction permits that extend beyond Dec. 31, 2006 states or will be modified to state that the permit expires "on the appropriate date or the end of the digital television transition, whichever occurs first."

In addition to filing the waivers using ECFS, a copy of each waiver request must also be delivered to Shaun Maher, Federal Communications Commission, Room 2-A820, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.

For additional information, see the Public Notice.