N.Y. Broadcast Outlet Goes Digital

Another TV station has received federal approval to shut down analog service and complete the transition to digital broadcasting more than two years earlier than technically required.

The Federal Communications Commission granted analog shutoff permission on July 8 to WRNN-TV — a station in Kingston, N.Y., about 85 miles north of New York City — which goes by the moniker Regional News Network in the area.

The agency said the station’s current off-air only viewers would not be harmed because in April 2004 Nielsen Media Research reported that WRNN-TV had “no reportable over-the-air viewing.”

After WRNN-TV terminates analog broadcasting, it can demand that cable systems carry the digital signal.

Under current FCC policies, though, the station might insist on analog cable carriage of the digital signal if it pays for conversion equipment at cable headends.

WRNN-TV notified the FCC that it planned to demand analog cable carriage. Digital TV stations currently have no carriage rights on direct-broadcast satellite, because the FCC has yet to adopt rules in this area.

WRNN had a big incentive to transition to digital. The station informed the FCC that its digital signal would extend its “interference-free coverage to an additional 11.9 million people.”

Only a few stations have been given the green light to cease analog TV, including: WMCN (formerly WACC) in Atlantic City, N.J.; WNTV in Goldvein, Va; and KVMD in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

KJLA, a bilingual station in Los Angeles, has filed an analog shutdown request, but the FCC has not placed it on public notice.

The U.S. has 1,744 full-power commercial and public TV stations, according to FCC figures released March 31, 2004. All are required to make the digital transition.

The DTV transition is supposed to conclude on Dec. 31, 2006 unless TV stations can demonstrate that less than 85% of local TV households have digital TV reception equipment, such as a DTV set or digital set-top box.

The FCC is formulating a plan under Media Bureau chief Kenneth Ferree that would likely end the transition on Dec. 31, 2008, under a scheme that would require TV stations to elect must carry just for their digital signals and require cable operators to downconvert those signals to analog.

WRNN’s station occupies channel 62, which is within a 66-Megahertz block of spectrum that the FCC is attempting to clear for advanced wireless services and public-safety needs.

WRNN’s digital signal occupies channel 48.

A spokesman for WRNN did not return a call for comment.