Friday, February 13, 2009

OK, So 190 Plus 491 Minus 123 Equals 558. Plus ???

The count of stations that will be digital-only after midnight on Feb. 17 continues to change. After issuing their initial list of regulations for shutting analog on that date, they issued a master list of 1800 full-power stations, listing in red the 190 stations that are already digital-only and 491 new ones that were following the FCC's instructions (for a total of 681, or 37.8% of the total number full-power stations). However, the FCC also said that they could turn down some of those requests if public-interest considerations required it.

They have now done so, issuing a new list of stations that are being challenged, and which will have to submit to additional regulations (spelled out in their latest public notice),and declare their willingness to do so by 6 PM today (Friday, Feb. 13). The list focuses on those areas where all (or at least the Big Four) stations in a market are terminating. The conditions are fairly daunting (among other things, providing educational assistance including consumer "walk-in" centers), and my gut feeling is that the FCC is trying to ensure that at least one station per DMA stays in analog until June 12 (the notice specifies that at least one station per DMA must commit to providing two months of "nightlite" service including demonstrations of how to install boxes etc.). Until we know how many stations are willing to comply, the count of stations that will be all-digital as of Feb. 18 is now 558 (just about 31% of the total). Still enough to make Feb. 17 a significant "dress rehearsal" for the overall transition.

Monday is a holiday, so we may not have the final numbers until Tuesday (the 17th, yikes!)

UPDATE: SUN., FEB. 15 These aren't the final final figures, but pretty close. First of all, apparently there were only supposed to be 106 stations in the "challenged" list instead of the 123 originally listed (the differences attributed to unspecified technical considerations). The FCC's notice of Feb. 13 announced that 53 (exactly half) of those 106 stations had agreed to the FCC's conditions (see above) and could go ahead and cease analog transmissions on Feb. 17; they are listed here. Forty-three other stations decided to continue in analog, while ten others would like to keep to Feb. 17 but could not meet all the conditions; the FCC will decide what to do with them shortly. So leaving those 10 out for the moment, we get 491 minus 53 for a total of 438 stations terminating analog service on Feb 17, joining 190 already in digital-only status for a total (so far) of 628 all-digital stations on Feb. 18, or just over 34.8% of total U.S. full-power stations.

ADDL UPDATE/CORRECTION SUN., FEB. 15 At least some of these 438 will remain on the air as "nitelite" stations, broadcasting local news and transition info. An example (for Providence, RI) can be seen here.

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