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FCC: Wilmington Stations Can Go Analog in Emergency

The Federal Communications Commission said Monday that the Wilmington, N.C., stations pulling the plug early on analog TV broadcasts (Sept. 8) can elect to continue to broadcast news and information on their analog channels, as well, in the event of a hurricane or other emergency.

Wilmington is on the North Carolina coast.

The noncommercial station serving Wilmington, WUNC, is not making the early conversion, having cited the possibility of emergency information as one reason for not doing so.

The commission made it clear that the option to continue broadcasting in analog was only because the stations were voluntarily making the switch early, rather than on the Feb. 17, 2009, date that the FCC said gives stations no analog wiggle room, emergency or not.

"Stations that are transitioning on Feb. 17, 2009, will not be able to retain analog signals for any purpose, including emergency broadcasts," the FCC said in clarifying the situation. That's because the analog-cutoff date was established by Congress.

Also unlike Feb. 17, 2009, the Wilmington stations will be broadcasting analog after Sept. 8 even if there is no emergency, at least through the end of September, the FCC said.

That analog signal will carry a graphic with the following message: "At noon on Sept. 8, 2008, commercial television stations in Wilmington, N.C., began to broadcast programming exclusively in a digital format. If you are viewing this message, this television set has not yet been upgraded to digital. To receive your television signals, upgrade to digital now with a converter box, a new TV set with a digital (ATSC) tuner or by subscribing to a pay service like cable or satellite. For more information call: 1-877-DTV-0908 or TTY: 1-866-644-0908 or visit [dedicated Web site].”