Saturday, March 14, 2009

FCC Sets New DTV Transition Rules

It looks like the FCC set new rules Friday, saying all of the stations left to transition to all-digital broadcasting must notify the FCC of their new plans by next Tuesday. (Hat Tip to Rich Emery for finding this information and sending it over)

Broadcasting & Cable magazine has more here including the link to the guidelines. We'll hit the highlights here, and these are quotes from the link.

-- The FCC is requiring that every station that has not yet transitioned to digital file a binding notice of analog termination by that March 17 date. Stations will have to air viewer notifications for at least 30 days before pulling the plug, including the information about antennas and possible signal loss where applicable. Once the stations have filed that notice, they may proceed with their plans without getting a specific individual approval from the commission.

-- Network affiliates that want to go before June 12 can do so if at least one network affiliate remains on the air in full analog service in the market until June 12. If a major network affiliate (meaning ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC [parentheticals mine]) can't attest to that and still wants to pull the plug early, it can do so as long as at least one of the major affiliates is maintaining an "enhanced nightlight" service of news, public affairs and emergency info.

It should be noted that the individual stations can decide to pull the analog service off the air at any time during the day of their transition but must communicate that time to the FCC. The guidelines also require all broadcasters to air a new, long-form (meaning 30 minute) educational program to their viewers which contains updated, locally-specific information, at least one time before June 12.

Stations are allowed to shut off analog transmission beginning April 16th, except for non-commercial stations which are claiming financial hardship. Those stations can shut off as early as 13 days from today. Those stations include the Kentucky Educational Television network, which will go April 15 as we reported previously.

And we've just remembered Gray Television-owned CBS affiliate WKYT-TV 27/Lexington.

That station has said in public for weeks they would go on April 13...which is three days before the earliest allowed deadline for commercial TV stations. We wonder if the FCC will still allow shouldn't be much of an issue, as the NBC affiliate already said it would not go before June 12.

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