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Broadcasters Seek Waivers To May 1 DTV Deadline

The much awaited May 1, 2002 deadline for all commercial broadcasters to begin digital television transmissions was turning out to be less spectacular than originally hoped.

The final days before a Federal Communications Commission March 4 deadline for special extensions to miss the May 1 launch date brought dozens of requests, according to a report in TWICE sister publication Multichannel News.

The publication said the FCC expects at least 248 of the nation’s 1,300 commercial broadcasters to miss the deadline. Citing financial, technical and legal issues, broadcasters have sought extensions ranging from six to 21 months.

To date, 259 stations are transmitting digital signals, according to the National Association of Broadcasters, which has said it expects 30 percent of U.S. commercial broadcasters to miss the May 1 deadline.

The FCC recently modified its requirements to lessen the costs for some stations facing financial hardships to begin digital broadcasting. The rule changes relaxed the condition that broadcasters had to immediately replicate the entire coverage area of their existing analog signal. Instead, broadcasters initially are required to serve only their “communities of license” without fear of losing signal interference protection.