FOX 47 changes course; will keep broadcasting analog to June 12

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Posted by on February 12, 2009 at 15:29:54:

In Reply to: Analog cutoff: FCC says "WHOA!!" posted by 4DFM on February 12, 2009 at 12:30:20:

Update: FOX 47 changes course; will keep broadcasting analog to June 12

by Jeff Richgels � TCT 2/12/2009 3:20 pm

FOX 47 has reversed course and decided to continue broadcasting in analog through the new digital transition date of June 12, general manager Kerry Johnson told The Capital Times Thursday.

Johnson said the reversal comes after the Federal Communications Commission handed down new guidelines late Wednesday for markets where the affiliate stations of all four major networks had elected to cease analog broadcasting and move to digital on Tuesday - the original deadline for the switch from analog to digital broadcast TV.

An updated story will be posted here soon.


All of Madison's private network affiliate broadcast stations have asked for permission from the Federal Communications Commission to switch from analog to digital broadcasting next Tuesday.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed legislation extending the deadline for the digital transition from Feb. 17 to June 12, but stations can ask for FCC permission to move earlier.

Last week, WKOW-TV, WISC-TV, WBUW-TV and NBC 15 all said they wanted to transition on Feb. 17. FOX 47 said it was undecided but later posted a notice on its Web site stating that it wanted to switch. (MyMadisonTV, which is a sister station to WISC, already broadcasts only in digital.)

Officials at WHA-TV21, the public television station in Madison, said the station would go all digital some time in March.

The FOX 47 statement says: "For the past year, television stations, including this station, have notified viewers of the February 17, 2009, analog shutoff date through on-air announcements, informational crawls, full-length programs, and their Web site. As a result, in order to avoid additional confusion due to the date change and as permitted by the recently enacted legislation, this station has notified the FCC that we would like to cease analog operations on February 17, 2009, as originally planned. Whether or not we will actually terminate analog broadcasts depends upon our receiving consent to do so from the FCC. As required by the FCC, we are currently airing announcements throughout the day to inform our viewers that we will terminate analog broadcasting on effective at 11:59 p.m. on February 17."

Confirmation of the requests by WKOW-TV, WISC-TV, WBUW-TV, NBC 15, and FOX 47 is in an FCC document listing the 681 stations that have requested to go digital or already gone digital by permission of the FCC.

The FCC said last week that 61 percent of TV stations (1,089) should be able to turn off their analog signal before June 12 if they choose without causing interference to other stations, and "most" of the remaining 700 or so stations "may" also be able to do so, reported. reported Thursday that there are 19 markets covering 5.1 million TV households where all four of the major network affiliates want to make the transition on Tuesday.

TV stations that want to switch next Tuesday had to tell the FCC by this past Monday, and 491 of them did. That's in addition to the 190 stations that already terminated analog, or have already notified the FCC of their intention to do so.

The FCC has said that it may deny some of those requests where the move would negatively impact viewers. For example, the FCC would think twice before allowing all the major stations in a market with a high percentage of analog-only viewers to pull the plug Feb. 17, reported.

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps has said the FCC would inform stations as soon as possible whether they would be able to pull the plug Feb. 17, but time obviously is growing short. Any station the FCC decides can't go early -- because it is not in the public interest -- will receive the news "promptly," says the commission's public notice, reported.

One broadcast executive surmised to that the 491 stations were far higher than the FCC had expected and predicted that the FCC will be "taking stations to task" over noncompliance with the details for going early, which include an extremely accelerated and condensed schedule of PSAs and crawls informing viewers of that fact.

The executive noted that there was no way for many stations, including his, to run automated crawls. He said that while having to file the request to go early was not a big cost, he is concerned about the legal expenses if he fails to meet the FCC's regimen for alerting viewers to a Feb. 17 cut-off.

He joked that since Monday is a federal holiday (Presidents Day), "a lot of us are expecting to hear from the FCC at 4:59 on Friday the 13th that we can (or can't) go," said.

Broadcasting in both analog and digital presents extra costs to stations.

While Nielsen reported that as of Feb. 1, 5.1 percent of U.S. households are "completely unready" for the digital transition, government figures indicate that less than 1 percent are unready in the Madison area.

Those with cable, satellite or phone service TV will not be affected by the digital transition.

Those with no subscription TV service and an analog TV must get subscription TV, buy a new digital TV or get a converter box to continue receiving TV on an analog set after the digital transition.

The government has been offering two $40 coupons per household for the converter boxes, which cost about $40 to $60. But the program ran into various problems, and there currently is a waiting list, although a coupon is not necessary to buy a converter box.

Obama's transition team had called for the digital transition date to be moved, and the bill was passed last week. But the president had pledged to put bills out for a five-day public comment period, which he did with the DTV bill, reported.

"During these challenging economic times, the needs of American consumers are a top priority of my administration," the president said Wednesday. "This law, which was crafted in a bipartisan way and passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate, ensures that our citizens will have more time to prepare for the conversion.

"Millions of Americans, including those in our most vulnerable communities, would have been left in the dark if the conversion had gone on as planned, and this solution is an important step forward as we work to get the nation ready for digital TV. My administration will continue to work with leaders in Congress, broadcasters, consumer groups and the telecommunications industry to improve the information and assistance available to our citizens in advance of June 12."

Meanwhile, the economic stimulus package passed by the Senate wound up cutting broadband expenditures from $9 billion to $7 billion, reported. The Senate version now must be conferenced with the House version, which includes $6 billion, to reconcile the many differences.

Both versions include $650 million to unclog the DTV-to-analog converter box program.

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