TV Stations to Forge Ahead With Digital Transition, Despite Warnings

Consumer rights advocates warn the early switch will cut off millions from emergency signals.

Hundreds of TV stations plan to shut down analog transmission Feb. 17, despite Congressional legislation delaying the switch to digital television until June.

Consumer rights groups pushed for the digital delay bills in order to give the nearly 6 million households that are unprepared for the switch time to buy digital converter boxes (harder than it sounds -- the Commerce Department ran out of money for a coupon program to offset the cost of the boxes, which run between $40 and $80.)

Now it appears that stations around the country are forging ahead with the transition, despite warnings by consumer advocates that cutting off analog TV will leave millions without access to emergency broadcasts -- an obvious safety hazard.

Fortunately the FCC can still deny stations permission to switch over on an individual basis. From a document just released by the FCC:


We remind stations that intend to terminate analog operations on February 17, 2009 that consistent with their public interest responsibilities and Congress' delay of the transition to June 12 to give consumers additional time to prepare, the Commission has reserved the right to limit or reconsider the partial waiver of the Third Periodic Review Report & Order's early termination procedures granted in the February 5 Public Notice in the event that the Commission determines that analog termination on February 17 by a station or group of stations is contrary to the public interest.  In such event, the Commission will promptly notify the affected station or stations.   The Commission may consider such action if, for example, it finds that all or most of the stations in a market will terminate their analog service on February 17, and that the market is one in which many viewers are unprepared for the transition or at risk if the transition proceeds.


Thanks Michael Copps.


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