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FCC Identifies Hundreds Of Stations With DTV Coverage Gaps

The FCC late Tuesday said it was releasing two reports with maps and charts outlining the changes in TV coverage areas from analog to digital service for all 1,749 full-power TV staions in the U.S. They show that 89% of stations (1,533) will see a net gain of viewers in the switch to digital, while 11% (196 stations) will have a net loss.

They are net gains and losses, so even the net gains could have some viewers who lose historically-viewed signals, with those offset by ones who now get the digital signals but didn't get them before.

The FCC also said it was releasing a report on the 319 stations where more than 2% of the viewers getting an analog signal will not get the comparable digital signal. But the FCC says that number overstates the impact of the deficits since it includes folks who are getting cable and satellite service, which is about 85% of viewers on average in any market. Those viewers are not affected by the over-the-air gaps.

Neither report had been posted on the Web site at press time, but were expected to be.

News of those roadmaps for DTV coverage fixes came soon after the FCC commissioners voted unanimously to allow broadcasters to help fill in areas where digital coverage is smaller or different than analog

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin asked broadcasters to spread the word to viewers about the differences in coverage area revealed by the side-by-side comparisons. The issue came to the fore after coverage area differences were identified in Wilmington, NC, after its early analog cut-off.

“It is critical that broadcasters use the information in these reports to inform their viewers about how changes in their coverage may affect them,” said Martin in a statement. “We expect broadcasters to make this information readily available and include it in all of their DTV educational materials.”

The commission said that stations can restore service to viewers in coverage gaps via a number of ways, including using translators, using another station's multicasting DTV spectrum; boosting power, or changing the station's antenna pattern.

The FCC has pledged to work with broadcasters to try and resolve coverage issues, pushed by legislators eager to avoid calls from unhappy viewers.