Public TV at the Deadline: Almost Half

Public broadcasters' DTV day is here--at least, that was the idea when the FCC set May 1, 2003 as the deadline for noncommercial stations to begin digital broadcasts.

The reality, according to the Association of Public Television Stations on May 1, is that 155 of the 357 stations (43 percent) have gone digital, with the number changing "hour by hour"; 188 stations (53 percent) will definitely miss the deadline. APTS says the markets served include 72 percent of the U.S. population, but with many stations operating at less than full power it's unclear how many of those people can actually receive the signals.

APTS President and CEO John Lawson said as many as 300 may be on the air by the end of the year.

April 28, public broadcasters got one wish: The FCC delayed a deadline to begin DTV-analog simulcasting for at least 50 percent of the time. Public broadcasters opposed the requirement, which was to have taken effect April 1. One year later, in April 2004, the requirement would have grown to 75 percent of broadcasts, rising to 100 percent in April 2005. With the new FCC order, the 50 percent requirement will begin Nov. 1.