641 TV Stations Go Digital on Deadline
The agency said 220 stations switched to digital before Tuesday, while another 421 stations have the go-ahead to terminate their analog signals today before 11:59 p.m. This spreadsheet lists all full-power stations, with those making the transition on or before February 17 denoted in red, bold type.
Wilmington, N.C., was the first to flip the switch on Sept. 8, 2008, serving as the nation's DTV transition lab rat. (See Wilmington Flips the Digital Switch .) Hawaii followed on Jan. 15, 2009, going early due to concerns that transitioning a month later would disrupt the breeding habits of the Dark-Rumped Petrel.
The FCC said it has dispatched staff to 72 markets to monitor activities and educate the public. The agency has also increased staff in consumer call centers, providing 2,506 "information specialists" to answer questions, and another 1,759 agents through "industry partners," which includes assistance from the cable industry. All of those calls are being routed through a single number: 1-888-CALL-FCC.
Among stations that are switching by the original February 17 date and under an "enhanced analog nightlight" program, at least one of the top-four affiliates in a given market must keep at least one analog signal on the air to provide programming that includes, at a minimum, local news and emergency information.
The other 1,152 full-power stations will make the switch sometime between now and June 12, thanks to a new "hard" transition date that went into effect last Wednesday after President Obama signed a bill into law that delays the DTV transition for an additional four months. The hope is that the extra time will give consumers who rely on over-the-air TV signals extra time to prepare for the switch. (See FCC: 123 TV Stations Can't Switch on Feb. 17, Stations Want to Flip Digital Switch Early, and Senate Backs Digital Delay Bill .)
Owned and operated stations of ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS have already pledged to keep their regular analog feeds running through June 12, a move that the FCC and other government bodies have openly preferred.
"We are trying to make the best of a difficult situation," Acting FCC Chairman Michael J. 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."
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) , meanwhile, has maintained that MSOs are ready for the transition whether local broadcasters switch today or sometime before June 12. (See NCTA: Delay or No Delay, Cable's Ready .) Per an FCC mandate, most operators are on the hook to provide "must-carry" TV stations in analog and digital format following the switch-over. (See Rebuilding Analog TV and FCC OKs Dual TV Carriage Rules.)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News