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B'casters seeking streamlined DTV waivers

Broadcasters asked the Federal Communications Commission Friday to create a streamlined process for approving requests from stations seeking extensions to the May 2002 deadline for offering digital signals.

FCC chairman Michael Powell dismissed previous suggestions that all small-market stations should receive a blanket waiver from the looming rollout date.

Instead, stations that can show a hardship such as:

  • Inability to pay for the transition due to lack of advertising support in their markets;
  • Difficulty obtaining digital-transmission equipment; or
  • Lack of local zoning permits

can apply for waivers on a case-by-case basis.

But the National Association of Broadcasters worries that the FCC will be swamped by a crush of waiver requests that will create more uncertainty in the industry if a simple approval process isn't established.

The NAB is also asking the FCC to relax stations' deadline for covering their analog footprint with digital signals and maximizing the coverage area of UHF digital-TV transmissions.

NAB officials made their pleas at a meeting with Susan Eid, Powell's mass-media staffer; Rick Chessen, who will be named head of the FCC's digital-TV task force this week; and mass-media aides of the other three commissioners.