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500 TV Broadcasters Ask For Early Shutoff

Washington — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a list of 500 additional full-power TV broadcasters who have sent word that they need to shut off their analog signals prior to the new June 12 deadline for the transition to all-digital broadcasting.
Under bills recently passed by the House and Senate, but still awaiting the signature of President Obama, broadcasters feeling the pinch of having to pay for additional electricity and support to maintain both an analog and a digital transmission of their primary channels were given the ability to shut off their analog signals on the previous Feb. 17 deadline, or in some cases even earlier, pending FCC approvals.
The loss of signals in those markets means viewers who have not prepared for the switch to digital broadcasting

by adding a converter box and in some cases a new antenna, a multichannel television service or a new digital TV, will no longer receive those signals.

Nielsen has recently estimated that more than 5 million over-the-air households were still unprepared for the digital transition in early February, with the elderly, Hispanic and low-income household population groups showing the heaviest percentages of impacted viewers.

Stations that planned to shut off their analog signals earlier than June 12 were required to notify the FCC by Feb. 9, so that the commission could grant an approval.

The deepest impact of the early shutoffs will be felt mostly in smaller markets.

In a press conference Wednesday, Acting FCC chairman Michael Copps said the commission is working quickly to grant approvals to broadcasters, but said that it will scrutinize those requests, especially in “vulnerable” markets.

He defined vulnerable markets as those with high percentages of vulnerable population groups, those where all analog broadcasts will leave the air, and those where no outlet will be left to broadcast news and emergency information.

To date, some 100 broadcast stations already have been given permission and have stopped their analog service and migrated to 100 percent digital broadcasting. Another 90 will do so in coming days.

Copps commended the 63 percent of U.S. broadcasters who have “stepped up to the plate” by agreeing to continue their analog broadcasts until June 12.

In many cases, broadcasters appearing on the list to stop their analog broadcasts have been preparing for months to meet the previous Feb. 17 timetable and have already scheduled crews to make the necessary changes.