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FCC Sanctions Listed

Washington – The Federal Communications Commission issued the sanctions it will apply to broadcast stations that fail to meet DTV broadcast deadlines without a valid excuse.

The FCC stated that when a television station fails to meet its DTV construction deadline and does not qualify for an extension on its DTV construction deadline, it will impose a set of graduated sanctions.

These will include denial of the request for an unqualified extension and a formal admonishment of the station for its failure to comply with its DTV construction obligation.

The station must then ‘submit a report within 30 days outlining the steps it intends to take to complete construction and the approximate date that it expects to reach each of these construction milestones,’ the FCC said.

If the broadcaster fails to deliver ‘extraordinary and compelling circumstances,’ the construction completion date will be no later than six months from the date of admonishment.

Then 60 days after its initial report, the station must submit a report detailing its progress on meeting its milestones and justifying any delays it has encountered.

If the station fails to demonstrate that it is taking all reasonable steps to complete construction, or has acted in bad faith, the FCC ‘will consider the imposition of additional sanctions including proceeding immediately to other steps in our approach.’

Stations that ultimately fail to construct their DTV facilities shall have their DTV authorization rescinded without the need for a full evidentiary hearing, the FCC said.

Further, the broadcaster that fails to comply runs the risk of losing the right to broadcast in analog. The FCC said that ‘requiring a station that has lost its DTV authorization for failure to timely construct to turn in its NTSC authorization in such circumstances is both good public policy and mandated by Congress.’

Congress intended that stations not be able to retain their rights to operate an NTSC station following the completion of the DTV transition,’ according to the policy statement.

‘We must have an ultimate sanction to impose on those stations that either refuse to construct a DTV facility or abuse our DTV construction schedule. We intend this sanction to be utilized only as a final measure and trust that it will be employed in only the most egregious circumstances.’

Some 70 percent of all commercial TVs that were to have been broadcasting digitally by May 1, 2002, missed the FCC deadline.

As of March 12, 2003, a total of 894 stations were broadcasting a digital signal, 397 with licensed facilities or program test authority and 497 operating with special temporary authority or experimental DTV authority, the FCC said.

In the top 30 television markets, 113 of the 119 network- affiliated television stations are on the air in digital. In markets 1- 10, 38 of the 40 network affiliates were deliverying digital signals by May 1, 1999. The remaining two were licensed and on the air prior to September 11, 2001, but are now off the air due to the attack on the World Trade Center.

In markets 11- 30, 70 of 79 network affiliate stations required to be on the air by Nov. 1, 1999, have constructed their licensed DTV facilities. Seventy-five of these stations now are on the air. Seven stations have been granted additional time to complete construction of their digital facilities.

Approximately 1,196 commercial television stations were to begin digital broadcasts by May 1, 2002. As of March 12, 2003, 679 of these stations are broadcasting a digital signal. In addition, 100 noncommercial educational television stations are voluntarily airing digital broadcasts ahead of schedule.

The remaining 273 noncommercial educational television stations are scheduled to commence digital operations by May 1, 2003.

A total of 843 commercial television stations subject to the May 1, 2002, deadline requested an initial extension of time to complete construction.

The FCC Media Bureau granted 772 of these initial extension requests for financial hardship or special circumstances. The DTV construction permits for these stations were extended for a six-month period, until Nov. 1, 2002. As of March 12, 2003, 602 of these stations have requested an additional extension of time to construct, and 457 of these requests have been granted.

The remainder of these extension requests either have been dismissed or remain pending. A total of 31 stations have requested a third extension of time.

Seventy- one stations that requested an extension of the May 1, 2002 construction deadline were found not to have taken all reasonable steps to complete construction of their DTV facilities in an expeditious manner.

The stations were denied extension applications and admonished for failure to comply with DTV construction obligations. Each permittee was given until Dec. 1, 2002 to come into compliance with the DTV construction rule and was directed to submit, within 30 days, an initial report outlining the steps it intended to take to complete construction.