FCC Bars TV Station From Analog Cutoff

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Washington— A Southern California TV station has been ordered to continue its analog broadcast transmission, even though it wanted to shift to all-digital broadcasting, effective Jan. 1.

KVMD in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was poised to become the first station in the country to make the digital transition by surrendering its analog license.

But the Federal Communications Commission's Media Bureau ruled that because a significant number of persons — about 60,000 — would lose access to KVMD's analog feed, it would not permit the station to discontinue it.

The ruling, issued in a Dec. 19 letter to the station's attorney, came in the context of a must-carry dispute between the broadcaster and several cable operators.

KVMD sought to drop its analog signal in order to make its digital signal eligible for cable carriage in analog format. It said its powerful digital signal would give it access to an additional 4.8 million persons in cable homes.

Time Warner Cable, AT&T Broadband and smaller cable systems affected by KVMD's broader carriage plans resisted and sought to delete some of their systems from the broadcaster's market.

The FCC did not act on the must-carry claims. Because the FCC ordered KVMD to continue analog broadcasting, KVMD has no authority under FCC rules to assert mandatory cable carriage of its digital signal.

KVMD hopes to convince the FCC that 60,000 people will not lose the station's signal in the digital conversion. The vast majority of those people are likely cable subscribers and KVMD — after turning in its analog license — may insist on analog cable carriage of its digital signal.

Barry Friedman, a Washington, D.C., lawyer for KVMD, said the station soon would forward a new switchover plan for the FCC's review.

"We intend to resubmit our request and provide the commission with information that will assist the commission in reaching a favorable result," Friedman said.

The FCC has authorized one station to terminate analog broadcasting — WWAC-TV in Atlantic City, N.J.

That station, owned by Lenfest Broadcasting LLC, is hoping its powerful digital signal will mean cable carriage in 1.8 million homes in the Philadelphia market, rather than the 575,000 cable homes covered by its weaker analog signal.

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