Nearly 60 television stations have entered the danger zone that could result in the loss of their ability to offer analog or digital television in the years ahead, Federal Communications Commission sources said last Wednesday.
In May 2002, every commercial TV station was required to begin broadcasting a DTV signal, but hundreds of stations — 70 percent, in fact — missed the deadline.
An FCC source said Wednesday that 58 stations have filed for a third six-month extension, each of which must be individually reviewed and approved by the five FCC members.
In an order released last Wednesday, the FCC established a three-step process for stations that have failed to construct DTV facilities and commence service. It culminates with loss of the DTV construction permit without a hearing, as well as loss of the station's analog license at the end of the digital transition.
"We intend this sanction to be utilized only as a final measure and trust that it will be employed in only the most egregious circumstances," the FCC's 12-page order said.
National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton said it was unlikely the FCC would actually rescind TV licenses.
"Despite the enormous expense of transitioning to digital, we expect virtually every broadcaster will make a good-faith effort to comply with the FCC's graduated steps to complete DTV construction. However, we trust the [FCC] will carefully evaluate the specific circumstances of each case before invoking sanctions on any station," Wharton said.