Is the FCC letter in the mail?

For at least a dozen or so station groups, the FCC's E-Z waiver for delaying digital television might not be so easy after all. Last week, the FCC asked some owners seeking permission to postpone their May 1 deadline for inaugurating DTV service to explain themselves.

Operators documenting DTV equipment snafus, legal and zoning fights, lack of financing, and natural disasters are permitted up to two six-month extensions. In all, 863 of the country's 1,300 full-power commercial operators have asked for a reprieve, using a simplified request form the FCC created last year. Most are seeking only a couple months' deferment due to equipment and construction-crew shortages.

The FCC letters went to owners of 22 small-market stations already suffering from generally thin margins before the recession compounded their troubles. More inquiries are likely to be issued to others this week.

Most of the licensees were asked to provide detailed information about their precarious finances, the cost of the digital systems they plan to install, affidavits from lenders, and when they predict being able to offer DTV. "Unfortunately, I don't think we'll have any trouble convincing the FCC," said Arthur Goodkind, lawyer for Red River Broadcast Co., which asked to delay the May 1 deadline at four stations: KDLT-TV Sioux Falls, S.D.; KDLV-TV Mitchell, S.D.; KVRR(TV) Fargo, N.D.; and KQDS-TV Duluth, Minn.

International Broadcasting, which "did not expect to be the party constructing digital facilities" must explain why a sale of WTCV-TV and WVOZ-TV Ponce, P.R. to Esperanza Television has not yet been completed.

Others queried: Ruby Mountain Broadcasting, KENV(TV) Elko, Nev.; Two Ocean Broadcasting, KJWY(TV) Jackson, Wyo.; Waitt Broadcasting, KMEG(TV), Sioux City, Iowa; KYOU-TV Ottumwa, Iowa; WDFX-TV Ozark, Ala.; WFXL(TV) Albany, Ga.; WPGX(TV) Panama City, Fla.; Oregon Trail Broadcasting, KPVI(TV) Pocatello, Idaho; Beartooth Communications, KTVH(TV) Helena, Mont.; National Communications, KVHP TV) Lake Charles, La.; Sierra Broadcasting; KWNV(TV) Winnemucca, Nev.; Falls Broadcasting, KXTF(TV), Twin Falls, Idaho; GE Media, WXFB(TV) Myrtle Beach, S.C.; WTVA Inc., KTFL(TV) Flagstaff, Ariz.; Southwestern Broadcasting, WVEO(TV) Aguadilla, P.R.; California Broadcasting, KAEF(TV) Arcata, Calif.