FCC Sticks to Deadlines

Keeping its promise to be tough on broadcasters who seek extensions to their digital buildout deadlines, the FCC rejected a request from Paxson Communications Corp. to give 22 of its stations a blanket 12-month extension.

The stations, from Merrimack, N.H., to Kaneohe, Hawaii, and concentrated in the South and Midwest, already have six-month extensions to the deadline that passed May 1. To get those initial extensions, the stations had to demonstrate circumstances beyond their control or dire financial situations.

But the FCC said its rules permit only one six-month extension at a time. Additional extension requests can still be granted, but the stations "must set forth, in detail, the steps that have been taken to date to complete construction expeditiously and the unforeseeable or uncontrollable delays or events that have prevented the licensee from completing construction of the authorized DTV facilities," the FCC wrote.

"Furthermore, Paxson has not demonstrated any reason that it should be treated differently from all of the other applicants that were granted the six-month extension," the FCC wrote.

Paxson did not respond to a request for comment.

Also, the FCC stood by its admonitions of three stations that were denied six-month extensions and that asked the commission to reconsider. WWAY (Wilmington, N.C.), owned by LibCo Inc., did not give a sufficiently certain and specific buildout plan, the FCC said. Religious broadcaster WTJR (Quincy, Ill.) claims it should be held to the schedule of noncommercial stations and not be subject to the May 1 deadline. The FCC disagreed. And the delays facing KSBI (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) were foreseeable and largely its own fault, the commission said.