FCC prods lingering stations on DTV construction

The FCC last week granted 104 television stations an additional six months before beginning broadcast of a digital signal. Seven stations, including NBC-owned WJAR-covering Southern New England from Providence, R.I.-were denied extensions and issued letters of admonishment.

The commission said the seven stations failed to adequately justify further extension of their DTV deadline. The admonished stations were given six months to complete construction of their DTV facilities or face financial sanctions. The stations, in addition to WJAR are: WVUE in New Orleans, LA; WICZ in Binghamton, NY; WKBW in Buffalo, NY; KMVU in Medford, OR; WSJU in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and WDWL in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. During this six-month period, these stations will be subject to periodic reporting requirements to ensure that construction is progressing.

“Admonishment is a serious thing,” said Ken Ferree, the FCC media bureau chief. He said that any of the cited stations that fail to launch DTV operations within six months will face fines, and if the delay reaches a year the station could lose its DTV construction permit.

The 104 stations that were granted a third extension demonstrated that their request was warranted and showed progress on construction of their facilities since the grant of their last extension, the FCC said. Examples of delays encountered by these stations are construction problems; hold-ups in equipment delivery; local tower siting problems; the September 11th attack in New York; stations awaiting FCC action on rulemakings or applications; and stations with financial problems.

A remaining 30 stations are classified “satellite” stations, which are full-power terrestrial broadcast stations that are authorized to retransmit all or part of the programming of a parent station that typically is commonly owned. The issue of whether to permit satellites to turn in their digital authorization and “flash cut” to DTV transmission at the end of the transition period is currently under consideration, and the FCC deferred the construction deadlines for those stations until that issue is resolved.

The FCC also said that currently 1,061, or 81 percent of all licensed commercial and public stations, are currently on the air with a DTV signal (see related item in Industry Updates section).

For more information visit the FCC's Web site.

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