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NYC TVs Get DTV Reprieve

The FCC has given more time to the overwhelming majority of the 145 TV stations that have yet to finish construction of their digital facilities, including WABC and WNBC New York, which will have until Feb. 17, 2009, to complete their 9/11-devastated transition.

The deadlines for construction were July 1, 2005, for stations affiliated with the Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) in markets 1 to 100, and July 1, 2006, for everybody else. But the FCC has granted extensions for a variety of reasons. Among them: destruction of the New York stations' DTV facilities in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

The commission granted six-month extensions to 107 stations, including WNBC, and set the deadline at Feb. 17, 2009, for 33 stations. Of those stations, 29, including WABC, will broadcast after the DTV switch on a channel different from their current DTV location; four stations want to use the same top-mounted antenna site for their DTV signal that they use for their current analog signal.

Two stations were denied extensions but will be allowed to continue operating analog stations, and another three were denied applications and admonished—an official reprimand.

The commission also warned that it might have to get tougher with stations. It pointed out that they had several years to plan for and finance the DTV construction, noting that many stations had received numerous extensions.

In a recent review of the progress of the DTV transition, the commission said that any further extensions may be subjected to a tougher standard.

According to the FCC, 1,702 stations are currently licensed to broadcast in DTV, with 1,603 on the air with a signal; some of the 145 seeking extensions are on the air but do not meet the minimum build-out requirements for mandated power levels or coverage areas.