Sunday, April 12, 2009

More Early Analog Terminations Thursday

I still owe this blog my thoughts on whether the latest "hard" date for termination of analog broadcasting (June 12) is going to hold. That will be forthcoming sometime in the next few weeks.

For now, I'd like to point out that we're within days of another batch of early terminations. Actually, as this new FCC list shows, a small group of stations (I count 13) transitioned on March 30 and 31, followed another eight in the first week of April. The rest of the list shows the 137 stations (158 minus 21) that will be transitioning before June 12. Of these 137, 75 will transition on April 16 (this coming Thursday), the first day allowed under the latest FCC order related to the transition (the small group of stations that transitioned at the end of March and first week of April were noncommercial/educational stations that were granted an exception for financial distress reasons).

Looking at the whole list, you can see a strong tilt towards PBS, smaller networks such as ION and TBN (religious broadcaster Trinity Broadcasting Network) and independent stations. This is because the aforementioned FCC order specified that early terminators either had to not be Big Four affiliates or that after they terminated there would still be one Big Four affiliate available in analog in their market (these rules were behind their rejection of two early-termination requests). The FCC is also imposing stiffer consumer education requirements including the possibility of smaller reception areas or the need for a new antenna. Which is to say that April 16 should be pretty much of a non-event, reaction-wise.

Among the remaining 900+ stations that are waiting for June 12 to leave the air are the kind of stations the FCC does not want to leave the air yet - the Big Four stations in our largest markets. I continue to believe that we would have a better idea of what June 12 will bring (assuming that it is the real end date) if at least one of these markets (like Boston or Detroit or Chicago) went all-digital before then, but that's clearly not going to happen, so whatever the FCC thinks we're still not prepared for, we'll have to deal with it all at once.

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