Stations Must Alert FCC By Feb. 9 To Make Early DTV Switch

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Stations that still want to pull the plug on analog by Feb. 17 have to let the FCC know ASAP.

The FCC has released its rules for implementing the extension of the DTV date, and they will require any station that still wants to end analog transmissions by Feb. 17 to apprise the agency by Feb. 9. They must also air at least 120 PSAs informing viewers of that decision between now and Feb. 17, according to an FCC spokesperson.

Since President Barack Obama has not yet approved bill, according to a White House spokesperson, the new implementation rules are contingent on his signature.

It was not immediately clear if stations also had to inform cable operators by Feb. 9 if they were gearing toward making the switch early. Clearly, the parties have been talking for months if not years about Feb. 17, 2009. However, FCC DTV documents on the matter do not specify a time frame or deadline, but instead instead indicate that  "it is essential that stations communicate directly and immediately with their MVPDs regarding their plans for termination of their analog signal in light of the statutory change in the transition deadline."

The section goes on to read that stations intending "to terminate their analog signal on February 17, 2009 must notify the MVPDs that carry their signals so that they can make the appropriate adjustments in their facilities to ensure a smooth transition. We also recommend that stations continuing to broadcast an analog signal after February 17 so inform the relevant MVPDs."

Congress Wednesday passed a new law changing the DTV transition date from Feb. 17 to June 12, but directing the FCC to accommodate those wanting to make the switch earlier -- including adhering to the Feb. 17 date they have been touting for a couple of years.

But while acting chairman Michael Copps said in his first meeting Thursday that the FCC would be flexible in terms fof stations that want to still pull the plug on Feb. 17, he said the commission would have the option of not agreeing to do so if it were not in the public interest, including not giving viewers sufficient chance to prepare.

For example, he said, if all the major stations in a market were going on Feb. 17, that would bear scrutiny, he said.

Copps also announced that a number of station groups had pledged to keep all or most of their stations on the air in analog until June 12.

Groups committed to June 12, he said, included those of CBS, Fox, NBC, Telemundo and ABC. For their part, Gannett and Hearst-Argyle had pledged to keep the vast majority of their station on until June 12.

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