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FCC Lets Two More Stations Pull Analog Plug

The Federal Communications Commission allowed two more stations to pull the plug on analog TV early to help clear the upper 700-megahertz spectrum band.

The stations are Trinity Broadcasting's WTBY-TV Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (channel 54), and WWAZ License's WWAZ-TV Fond Du Lac, Wis.

WTBY is pulling the plug on analog and going all-digital to make way for Qualcomm's MediaFlo service, a national mobile-TV service Qualcomm is rolling out across the country using spectrum being reclaimed from broadcasters in the switch to digital.

All of the spectrum will be freed up by Feb. 17, 2009, but Qualcomm is paying stations to exit early and the FCC is allowing it under certain conditions to advance the rollout of wireless service in the case of Qualcomm and to give emergency communications, which is also getting some of the spectrum, a chance to move in as soon as possible.

WWAZ said it is making way for first responders to use the channel and included documentation from safety agencies in Wisconsin and Illinois attesting to their eagerness to begin using the channel.

Both stations are the only analog stations licensed to their local communities -- a factor that weighs against the FCC allowing the early plug-pulling. But both pointed out that there are many other stations that serve the vast majority of the market, and neither is among the top four stations in viewership.

The FCC said it was convinced that, weighing all of the factors, allowing the early shutoff was in the public interest.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.