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FCC sticks to revocation threat

TV stations that fail to construct digital facilities and can't justify the
delay will continue to face a Federal Communications Commission threat to strip
them of digital-TV-construction permits -- a sanction that would put them out of business
when the television business finally goes all digital.

Wednesday the FCC made permanent the interim rules imposed last May laying out
steps that the agency will take against digital-TV laggards.

No stations face imminent threat of revocation, though.

"Although we find that overall DTV construction is continuing at an
acceptable rate, we must be prepared to deal with stations that do not meet
their DTV-construction obligation," the commission said.

Commercial stations already granted digital-TV-construction permits -- roughly 93
percent of the industry -- were bound by a May 1, 2002, deadline.

So far, 794 are now on the air in digital and 772 received extensions.

Stations denied extension requests will be admonished and must within 30 days
outline steps they will take to finish construction and provide an approximate
completion date.

Stations not in compliance six months after admonishment will be put on
notice that they are liable for forfeiture.

One year after admonishment, the construction permits of stations still not
built out will be considered expired and the FCC will take "whatever steps
necessary" to revoke them.

A total of 71 stations were denied extensions to meet the general May 1, 2002,
digital-TV-buildout deadline. Of those, 55 have since managed to get on the air, and the
rest submitted extra details on equipment, zoning and other problems sufficient
to convince the FCC that extensions were warranted.

Another 58 stations are nearing the end of the two six-month extensions Media
Bureau staffers are permitted to grant and are seeking a third extension that
can only be granted by a majority of the agency commissioners.