FCC Sets Feb. 9 Filing Deadline for Feb. 17 Analog Shutdowns

Stations that want to stick with the Feb. 17 DTV transition date can do so, but the FCC needs to know by Monday, Feb. 9.

As soon as President Obama signs the bill passed by Congress earlier this week, the DTV transition date will move to June 12, resetting the rules requiring broadcasters to inform the FCC about plans to shutoff full-power analog signals earlier than required.

Even stations that previously complied with a rule requiring 60-day advance notification to the FCC of plans to terminate analog on Feb. 17 must refile by Monday. The commission plans to grant partial waivers to stations that plan to go all digital within the next 60 days, but it reserves the right to deny waivers in instances where an early shutdown may not be in the public interest.

In announcing the new requirements, the commission acknowledged the problems stations may have in continuing analog service beyond Feb. 17. “Stations may have made extensive preparations for a February 17 digital transition and some may have difficulty altering their commitments at this time,” the FCC said.

The commission is also requiring those stations shutting down analog on the 17th, to issue 120 announcements between now and the 17th of their plans to terminate the signals, as well an additional news crawl (if technically feasible) on the analog channel for 5 minutes every hour (including in primetime), between Feb. 11 and the 15th, and for 10 minutes every hour (including primetime) on Feb. 16 and 17. The information in the announcements must be the same as in the PSAs stations have been airing for the past year. Stations without the technology to broadcast news crawls must find alternative methods to comply.

The FCC also encouraged stations terminating analog on Feb. 17 to air emergency information and/or consumer education information for 30 days after the 17th; that information must be included in the filing due Feb. 9.

The commission acknowledged that some stations that have already terminated their analog service or told the commission that they plan to before Feb. 17 may now wish to resume analog signals until the June deadline. Those stations must file a request for an STA by Feb. 9 and must provide the new date of analog termination if it is any date other than June 12.

To those stations sticking to the Feb. 17 deadline, the commission emphasized they make it clear to viewers who may be confused about the June 12 extension. “Whereas viewers may expect some stations to terminate on Feb. 17, 2009 as originally planned, viewers are likely to expect that stations that do not terminate on that date will continue until the new transition date of June 12, 2009, absent viewer notifications to the contrary,” the FCC said.