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FCC leans toward DTV relief

TV stations facing trouble with their DTV rollouts will find it simpler to a win a government reprieve under new FCC rules expected next month.

Broadcasters have warned that without a streamlined application process, regulators could be bogged down by a crush of waiver requests from stations seeking to postpone their May 1 DTV launch deadline. The new plan, presented to the four FCC commissioners late last week and slated to be unveiled at their Nov. 8 public meeting, would essentially create a checklist application that allows delays for zoning problems, equipment delivery delays and specific financial hardships.

The commissioners, who can make changes to the plan during the next three weeks, also are expected to delay stations' 2004 "use it or lose it" deadline for maximizing their DTV signal areas. The FCC also is expected to launch a rulemaking that could eliminate or alter the intense reviews given to radio mergers that greatly concentrate local ad revenue.

Broadcasters complain that the practice unjustly stalls radio deals because there are no set guidelines for evaluating the mergers. - Bill McConnell