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FCC spells out broadcaster obligations in completing DTV transition

The FCC March 13 laid out the rules broadcasters must follow as they conclude the transition from analog to digital TV transmission June 12.

The new rules were made necessary six days before the original DTV transition deadline, which Congress postponed Feb. 11 out of concern that portions of the off-air reception community remained completely unprepared for the switch.

The FCC’s new Report and Order addresses the remaining obligations of broadcasters related to analog service termination, DTV consumer education and other issues.

The termination obligations of stations include:

  • Stations have to file a binding notice of proposed analog termination by March 17.
  • Generally, stations cannot terminate analog before April 16.
  • Noncommercial, educational stations may terminate before April 16, but not before March 27, if they certify they are experiencing significant financial hardship.
  • Airing viewer notification for 30 days prior to transition for stations terminating before June 12, and the commission is requiring information about service loss from stations predicted to lose more than 2 percent of their analog viewers.
  • Major network affiliates terminating before June 12 may only do so if at least 90 percent of their analog viewers will receive continuing analog coverage until the June analog shutoff from another major network affiliate.

Among the DTV consumer education requirements are:

  • As of April 1, if the commission’s Signal Loss Report predicts that 2 percent or more of a station’s audience in its Grade B analog service contour won’t receive digital service, that station must air notices about the predicted service loss, in addition to the station’s other existing consumer education requirements.
  • As of April 1, all stations must inform viewers about using antennas as well as information about a station’s change from the VHF to UHF bands.
  • As of April 1, all stations must explain to viewers as pare of their consumer education campaigns that it is important to periodically use the rescan function of their DTVs and converter boxes.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.