News

57% of Public Stations to Miss Deadline

4/30/2003 6:31 AM Eastern

Less than one-half of the nation's public television stations are expected to
make the May 1 federal deadline to begin transmitting digital-TV signals, a
public TV official said Wednesday in comments that also pinned the blame on the
cable industry for the delay.

Public broadcasting expects 152 stations -- 43 percent -- to have made the
transition by May 1, Association of Public Television Stations president and CEO
John Lawson said.

In the past, the APTS predicted that up to 75 percent would make the
deadline.

"There is obviously a problem with our survey methodology," Lawson said.

The stations that didn't make it filed extensions with the Federal
Communications Commission, which is expected to give them another year before
tightening the noose.

The 195 extensions that were filed cited weather, legal, technical,
construction and financial difficulties, Lawson said.

"Our stations are completely committed to the transition, but they
encountered greater problems than they expected in actually getting across the
finish line," he added.

Under FCC rules, commercial stations faced a similar deadline May 1, 2002,
but 843 -- nearly two-thirds -- sought extensions of time.

Public stations need about $1.6 billion to complete their transition, and
$957 million has already been raised from Congress ($221 million), state
governments ($476 million) and foundations and other private interests ($260
million).

Public stations would be further along in the transition both in building
stations and raising money if the FCC had required cable systems to carry their
analog and digital signals, Lawson said.

"The lack of certainty about cable carriage has definitely retarded the
conversion of our stations because it compromises any sort of service or
business plans they might develop for using the technology," he added.

On Tuesday, the FCC gave all public stations until Nov. 1 -- a six-month
extension -- to simulcast on their digital signals no less than 50 percent of
the video programming that appears on their analog signals.

March