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New Rules!

5:40 PM -- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Friday released a second order to account for a staggered start to the U.S. broadcast digital TV transition, which, for all intents and purposes, got going on February 17 (the original DTV transition date), and will wrap up on June 12 -- the new, delayed "hard" transition date. (See 641 TV Stations Go Digital on Deadline.)

Among some new, proposed rules that accommodate the new date, the FCC said all full-power TV stations that did not terminate regular analog service by Feb. 17 have until Tuesday, March 17, to tell the Commission when they plan to make the switch.

In the FCC's eyes, station switch-over decisions will be "binding," and any station that does not notify the Commission by March 17 will be assumed to be terminating on June 12, and won't be allowed to do so any earlier, save for natural disasters, equipment failure, or some other "unforeseeable emergency" that may or may not include elderly men armed with guns and a heavy dose of frustration. (See DTV Solution: Shoot the Tube .)

Among other tentative rules (the FCC has fast-tracked a new set of proposed rulemaking, giving parties five days to submit comments instead of the traditional 30-day comment cycle), the FCC said stations may shut down analog no earlier than April 16, 2009, "to give all parties at least 30 days from the notification date to prepare and educate consumers."

The FCC is also proposing an "enhanced analog nightlight" under which at least one station in a given market continues broadcasting an analog signal that provides, at a minimum, DTV transition and emergency info, as well as local news and public affairs programming, for 60 days following an early termination date (i.e., before June 12).

Those are just some of the big takeaways. The entire 45-page order is here.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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