Washington — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a list of 421 television stations that said they will terminate their analog broadcasts at midnight tonight.
Of the nation’s nearly 1,800 full-power televisions stations, 220 will have terminated their analog signals before
Tuesday, which, along with the 421 scheduled for shut off at 11:59 pm, brings the total to 641 stations, or about 36 percent of all full-power stations nationwide, the FCC said.
The FCC said it has dispatched staffers to 72 markets across the nation where the impact is expected to be the greatest, while broadcasters who are shutting down analog signals intensify efforts to notify and educate the public.
“This is not just about whether people can watch their favorite reality show,” stated acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps. “It’s about whether consumers have access to vital emergency alerts, weather, news and public affairs.”
Finding that the public was not ready for the transition to digital television, Congress earlier this month delayed the deadline for termination of analog signals from Feb. 17 to June 12. But Congress also directed the FCC to give broadcasters the flexibility to make the transition early, including on the original Feb. 17 date.
The FCC is seeking to ensure that even where all or most stations in a market are terminating analog service, consumers who are unprepared for the switch will continue to have access to critical local news and emergency information. To accomplish this, the FCC examined each market in which stations planned to end analog service to try to ensure that at least one affiliate of the four major networks — ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC — would continue broadcasting in analog after Feb. 17. Many had such a station, but in those instances in which there would be no top-four affiliate remaining in a market, the FCC attempted to ensure that analog local news and emergency information would remain available—generally through what is being called “enhanced analog nightlight” service. Under “enhanced analog nightlight,” the top-four affiliates must keep at least one analog signal on the air to provide programming that includes, at a minimum, local news and emergency information.
“We are trying to make the best of a difficult situation,” Copps said in a statement. “While this staggered transition is confusing and disruptive for some consumers, the confusion and disruption would have been far worse had we gone ahead with a nationwide transition on Tuesday.”
“Remember where we were little more than a week ago,” Copps explained. “We potentially had all 1,800 full-power stations seeking to terminate analog service on Feb. 17. Then the major network owned-and-operated stations, along with some of the major group owners, stepped up and declared that they would keep their analog signals on the air. Those decisions undoubtedly had a restraining effect on the other stations in their markets. Of the stations that told us they still planned to terminate on Feb. 17, we identified 106 stations in 41 markets as being particularly problematic. Within the last few days, 43 of those stations reconsidered their decision and will stay on the air with analog service. That reduced the number of problematic markets from 41 to 20.”
Copps said that in markets losing analog stations, the FCC has attempted to ensure that analog viewers continue to have access to local news and emergency information.
FCC staffers will specifically target 72 markets where one or more of the top-four network affiliates are dropping analog broadcasts, to visit stores in those key markets to assess the availability of digital converter boxes, distribute key “how to” information for consumers making the switch, and assist in DTV walk-in centers where consumers can get hands-on transition assistance, the FCC said.
Outreach continues to be targeted at consumers most at risk: senior citizens, low income families, people living in rural and tribal areas, non-English speakers and the disabled.
The FCC said it has also boosted staffing in consumer call centers, providing 2,506 information specialists to answer consumer questions about the transition and an additional 1,759 agents through industry partners. All calls will be routed through a single number, (888) CALL-FCC, and agents will have the ability to refer callers to local contacts for information regarding particular reception issues.
The FCC said it has also provided new Web resources to help consumers address digital reception problems.
Information and a DTV reception map that allow consumers to check reception at their own homes are available at www.dtv.gov/fixreception.html.