Broadcasters are asking the Federal Communications Commission to prepare for
the inevitable: An untold number of TV stations won't make a key deadline in the
transition to digital television.
Nearly 1,300 commercial TV stations have until next May to launch digital
signals, but just 195 have done so to date, offering signals in markets that
include 68 percent of all TV households.
On June 22, top National Association of Broadcasters officials met with three
FCC members -- Gloria Tristani, Michael Copps and Kathleen Abernathy -- to urge
the commission to establish an uncomplicated process for granting waivers to
stations that can't meet the May 1, 2002, deadline.
'The [FCC] should provide a simple form for stations to use in asking for an
extension,' the NAB said in a June 25 memo documenting the FCC meetings.
The NAB memo emphasized that although TV stations were not looking for
'blanket extensions,' the agency should prepare for 'hundreds of individual
requests' for waivers, particularly from stations in small markets.
The association said the FCC form should provide a 'checkoff' if a station
can't go digital due to equipment availability and tower problems and leave
space for supporting material.
'The FCC should also allow stations to make a showing that they need an
extension due to financial hardship,' the NAB said, adding that the agency
should delegate extension authority to the Mass Media Bureau.
In a related request, the NAB urged the FCC to allow digital-TV stations 'to
operate with reduced hours and thus save electric costs' until the penetration
of digital-TV sets 'becomes more significant.'
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