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DTV Transition Follies, The Sequel

2/11/2009 08:18:00 AM

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.

Indications are that the bill passed to delay the digital TV transition from Feb. 17 to June 12 is just beginning to create confusion. Broadcasters want to shut off analog before the new deadline.

 

One hundred broadcast stations have been given permission by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stop analog and begin all-digital TV broadcasting before the new deadline, even before the bill was passed.

 

And under a proviso in the DTV bill legislation, the FCC released a list today of 500 TV broadcasters who requested to shut off their analog broadcasts because they can’t afford to pay the additional electricity or support to maintain both analog and digital.

 

Before Congress runs to throw in a bailout package for the broadcasters who can’t afford to keep analog TV going past Feb. 17, Michael Copps, acting FCC commissioner, said today that 63 percent of U.S. TV broadcasters have “stepped up to the plate” to continue analog broadcasts until June 12.

 

But what about the other 37 percent of TV broadcasters? Isn’t their audience more than the 5 million households the legislation was supposed to protect?

 

Of course, just because 500 broadcasters have appealed to shut off analog before June 12, it doesn’t mean the FCC will appeal all those requests, Copps warned, saying it would work quickly and look closely at requests especially in “vulnerable” markets.

 

Let’s hope that the FCC approval process for this is a little bit quicker than its work in the Sirius and XM merger, but that’s another story. (Check out senior editor Amy Gilroy’s blog on the latest about Sirius XM.)

 

Click here to take a look at the list. There aren’t just small municipalities involved, but multiple TV stations in multiple major cities.

 

Consumers would have been confused if the Feb. 17 date were kept in place. But there may be plenty of irate phone calls to TV stations and the rest of the DTV stakeholders as analog signals disappear before June 12.

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