FCC Rejects 25% of TV Stations’ Early DTV-Switch Applications

Feb 11, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission late Wednesday rejected, at least temporarily, a quarter of the requests from the 491 TV stations that had asked to switch to digital-only signals on Feb. 17.
President Barack Obama earlier Wednesday signed legislation pushing back the national switch to June 12 from the original Feb. 17 date. Stations were given the option of applying to stick with the February date. For the full list click here.
For TVWeek’s comprehensive coverage of the digital television transition, visit the DTV Switch Navigator page.
The FCC had warned it might reject switches that weren’t in the public interest. In Wednesday night’s action the commission expressed concern about markets where all the major network affiliates were switching early. That would potentially leave viewers who were unprepared for the digital switchover without any source for local TV news or emergency messages.
The action blocked switches of major stations in Dayton, Ohio; Eugene, Ore.; Billings, Mont.; Lincoln, Neb.; Madison, Wis.; Providence, R.I.; Rockford, Ill.; LaCrosse, Wis.; Charleston, W.Va.; Santa Barbara, Calif.; Sioux City, Iowa; Topeka, Kan.; Wausau, Wis. and Wichita, Kan., among other locations.
The agency, however, suggested it could let many of the same stations go ahead with switch if at least one major local station would continue to broadcast an analog signal. Other factors considered would be as assessment of whether the analog station had news and public affairs programming and if stations would set up “walk in” centers to help local residents apply for coupons and set up converter boxes that would let analog TVs receive digital signals. The stations were asked to agree to the conditions by Friday if they wanted to go ahead.
“We have identified 123 stations of the 491 intending to terminate analog service on February 17th whose early termination poses a significant risk of substantial public harm,” the agency said in a statement.
The FCC determined which applications for an early switch would be rejected by identifying markets in which all stations would be terminating analog service on Feb. 17.
Then the agency spotlighted the markets in which affiliates of all four of the major networks, ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, would be terminating analog service.
Alternatively, the agency looked at markets that do not have affiliates of all four networks to determine if all of the major networks broadcasting in those markets would be terminating their analog service on Feb. 17th.
Other factors that went into the FCC’s analysis included the size of the market, and how critical it is in a market to have major networks and affiliates delivering local news and public affairs information.
“Therefore, even if independent or non-commercial stations remain on the air in these markets, we still considered these areas at risk,” the FCC said.
(Editor: Baumann)


  1. So now the FCC is telling stations that they have to continue to spend money keeping up their analog signal and is also telling them to set up walk in centers to help residents apply for coupons. Once again, how much is the FCC helping pay for all these costs that broadcasters are having to pick up on their tab?
    It’s driving me nuts to begin with that we are letting procrastinators who didn’t get their DTV converter boxes dictate to the FCC and broadcast TV — costing millions of unsubstantiated costs — especially after the entire nation has been made aware of the switch to Feb. 17 for more than 2 years now.
    Once again we have to listen to the irony of the phrase, “Hello, I’m with the government and I’m here to help you.” What a joke!

  2. Isn’t it nice to see Obama’s FCC completely unconcerned about how many employees these stations and others across the nation will need to jettison to pay the power costs alone of powering both transmitters?
    There’s a rude awakening coming for stations in June when people cry “but the economy’s so bad we couldn’t even afford $10 for a converter with the coupon” and the FCC forces stations to continue to transmit analog for another six months, and then another.
    If I were one of these stations I’d tell the FCC to pound sand and would simply shut down my digital transmitter until transition day.

  3. Didn’t these same Senators, Representatives and FCC Commissioners, in October 2005, pass a law that stated 85% of the population was a sufficient number of DTV viewers to shutdown analog?
    Now suddenly 95%+ is not acceptable?

  4. And what’s to keep a station from “accidentally” burning up their analog transmission line, perhaps arcing over some bullets? Or spill some coffee onto the old exciter. Oops.
    If anyone complains, someone should read them Aesop’s fable about the ant and the grasshopper.

  5. All good comments. Unfortunatly, if a station, any station were to defy the FCC or suffer “accidental” catastrophic analog failure, I suspect the FCC would suspend the licence. Stations don’t own the airwave’s. The people do and Unky Sam gets to decide who does and who does not broadcast. This is Democrat politics as usual. Everything to absolutly everyone. Let the majority eat cake!
    On a seperate note, I love coming to and commenting on these boards. Intelligent discussion between intelligent people. Not the typical rant fest of other forums/boards. Bravo to you all!

  6. Something that noone has mentioned, last year converters were available, but not enough to match the need. The coupon program has a time limit and if the converter boxes were not (and they were very scarce) found the coupon could not be used, this happened to some in my family after getting a coupon they could not find a converter. I almost had the same thing happen to me, just days before it ran out I did find a converter. the additional cost is more like $25.00 not $10.00 as one commenter wrote. My niece is still looking for one even today without much success. I do believe a tax reduction equal to the electrical cost for running the additional transmitters should be given to stations to defer the costs of providng both signals.

  7. The FCC is there to help you. As a matter of fact, they are travelling throughout the Country to “help you”. Just like the broadcasters, the FCC is kind of caught in the middle in all this.
    It’s Congress and the Obama Administration that has politicized this transition and caused the mess we’re in right now.

  8. I think this denial is BS. Everything WAS clear that the analog shutdown would be on 2/17/09. Now we’ve got stations already shut down, those who are being “allowed” to shut down, those who want to shutdown, and those who will stay on. Those who want to shut down but have been denied have until 2/13/09 to “file”/etc. I see this as yet another level of confusion as to who is shutting off and when.
    Yesterday I tried to figure out what channels I can now expect to be on the air using 2 web sites. Antennaweb.org was clueless and pretending the 2/17/09 was going to happen. Tvfool.com came pretty close but still insists there will be (full power) analog stations on the air after 6/12/09. It’s ridiculous.

  9. The simple fact remains that there will be nearly as many people NOT ready for the digital transition in 4 months, 6 months or a year from now. It’s the same mentality of those that decide to hang back and weather the incoming hurricane because it just won’t be that bad. No one has really mentioned the other fact that the FCC’s actions are not constitutionally sound. How is it that independent stations and non-commercial stations are not subject to the same criteria as the stations affiliated with the major networks? We have all had 7 years to prepare for this transition and three days prior to final execution the FCC changes the plan. Politics at their best!

  10. So let’s see now … in addition to screwing up everybody’s schedule as to when the big switch to digital is to occur, we now have stations scrambling to find $10K to $20K a month to pay the electric bill for the next couple of months, and NOW we’re going to have problems scheduling tower work because the tower crews will have to redo their schedules to meet the requirements of the stations who scheduled tower work after 2/17 but now have to postpone that work because of the extension of analog service. WHEW … talk about a royal screw up! In this economy no less. Anybody know the term SNAFU ?

  11. By rejecting those stations, the Copps FCC is violating the clear intent of Congress for the DTV Delay Act. Without the legislative compromise that made the delay “voluntary” for broadcasters, the Act would have never been approved by the Senate.
    Any station that has been “rejected” by the FCC should simply submit page S1051 of the January 29, 2009 Congressional Record (available at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getpage.cgi?dbname=2009_record&page=S1051&position=all) to the FCC for their evidence.
    On that page, the Senate sponsors of the DTV Delay Act–which Obama apparently finally signed on February 12– clearly states the following about the delay in the DTV Delay Act: “It is voluntary. That was very important. Because many broadcast companies have made the investment for digital transmission, and they will be able to go to that digital transmission.”
    Moreover, the February 5th FCC Public Notice (that required broadcasters to submit notice to the FCC by February 9 if they intended to terminate their analog transmissions on February 17 and also imposed additional conditions on such broadcasters) violates the Congress’ intent and is Constitutionally illegal, as the President did not sign the DTV Delay Act into law until February 12. The FCC had no underlying legal authority at the time to impose the requirements, conditions and deadlines in the February 5th Public Notice, and even if they did, the Public Notice violates the clear intent of Congress.
    Note to President Obama and his advisors: make sure you really know what you are talking about before you ask for something. They have turned a minor inconvenience for a few people into unmitigated chaos. (This was a true learning experience for Obama and his advisor, Genachowshi, because they failed to understand the complexity of the DTV transition and the elegant sophistication of the hard date solution Congress passed in 2006—it required true “brilliance,” not the just the high level of sycophancy that gets one on the Harvard Law Review.

  12. Get out in the trenches, and you’ll see
    a totally different story. I just returned
    from an 80-year old widow’s ranch home, where
    her UHF portion of the antenna hasn’t worked
    for years!
    She has a converter box, that won’t get
    enough signal to spec. We did an antenna
    swap (37 miles from Green Bay, WI) and
    still worked through a snow covered and
    slippery roof.
    And, some smart guys changed tower sites,
    from 1000 foot poles, to cellphone towers
    miles from their original location. Optimizing
    an over the air antenna in mid-February at
    33 degrees is just plain nutz.

  13. Remember that wacky concept that the airwaves are free and owned by the public? Guess not. Buy new equipment or subscribe to cable. After THAT expense to the public, the airwaves are free, until cable rates go up again. Total sell-out by Congress to the cable industry and manufacturers.

  14. Mark, I understand your story and know there are people out there in similar situations. However, people have had YEARS to prepare for this transition. Secondly, many broadcasters are not able to broadcast digitally at full power/etc until the analog signals are turned off. In other words, we need to turn the analog signals off and remove the analog antennas so the digital antennas can be put in their place.
    There are limited numbers of crews that can work on these towers across the USA. Additionally, not all locations can be worked on at the same time (because of weather for example). The sooner we get the analog signals off, the sooner we can improve the digital signals. This delay makes a mess of tower schedules and I’d expect that there will be places next winter that have not yet been worked on.

  15. One of the reasons for denying the switch is because people might not receive emergency information. Has the FCC not heard of that other nifty invention called Radio? In many emergency situations, you have evacuated to your storm shelter with your trusty transistor. I guess since the FCC has let major corporations buy up all the stations, and program them out of LA and New York, there are no ‘local’ radio stations left to inform the public. Once again, your tax dollars at work!

  16. People who have procrastinated about upgrading their TV to digital will continue to do so. I personally own a website specializing in the sale of the DTV converter boxes. Since the DTV delay bill passed I have seen my traffic on the site drop to nothing. People won’t be any more prepared June 12 than they are now. There will alway be some who won’t do anything until they turn on their TV’s and go “Golly! What happened here?”

  17. No body understands this original DTV transiton date set for Feburary 17th was legislation written by the special interests who only care about making a buck instead of the intrest of the people. It was the Multibillion Dollar Telecommunications Industry that wrote this legislation that has the Federal Government mandate the Digital TV transition date. I think it is stupid that are Federal Government can dictate what a local TV station does. I support Obama delaying the date. I actually think this legislation to delay the DTV transistion date to June 12th was comprimise legislation. I think if Obama had it his way the date that all TV stations have to turn off their analog siginal would be set for the end of the year or early next year. Remember it was the Republicans that were against delaying the DTV transistion date. Remember the Republican Party is the Party that reperesensts the Special Intrests over the people.

  18. So for the stations that didn’t budget for ananlog transmissions past Feb. 17, why not ask the gov’t for a bailout? Seems to me that is the fashionable thing to do!

  19. Given this tangled web of bureaucratic red tape that has characterized the past couple of weeks regarding the digital-TV transition, we should look for an example to markets that have already de-activated their TV analog signals.
    Wilmington, NC, threw the DTV switch last September, as did the state of Hawaii this past January. To my knowledge, these markets have not produced any news reports about chaos or protest marches outside TV stations that have gone all-digital; nor have I heard stories about elderly men falling off their rooftops while trying to adjust their antennas to receive now-defunct analog signals.
    Let it be known that I would not downplay such tragedies if they had taken place, any more than I currently trivialize any casualties that are indeed being left behind in the wake of this transition. My point here is that some events or potential events that had been used to attempt to justify the DTV-transition delay have subsequently been blown out of proportion.
    Personally, I am grateful for the TV stations who have decided to move forward with the transition on 2/17, as originally promised. As an aside, this includes only one station in the Richmond, VA area; after next Tuesday, their analog channel will air “Night Light” (a continuous looping of DTV advisories during emergency off-times).
    Hopefully, by next June, we can all put Old Lady Analog to rest.

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