The Federal Communications Commission has granted extensions to 85 stations (40 commercial, 45 noncommercial) that had already been granted two extensions for missing their deadlines for constructing digital facilities, but three of those will lose their licenses if they are not on the air in digital TV this time next year.
Because of those multiple extensions, the FCC commissioners were required to vote on the new extensions, which they did at Thursday's meeting, the last for Chairman Michael Powell.
That 85-station total includes one commercial station and two noncoms that were admonished for failing to justify their delays. The rest were found to have made "reasonable and diligent efforts to construct" their DTV facilities.
While both the good actors and bad got an extra six months, the difference is that the three admonished stations now have a year to get on the air or lose their licenses. After this six-month admonishment period and a second "last chance" six months, they become "analog-only" stations and lose their station when the transition to digital is effected.
Currently, 1,491 out of 1,680 TV stations, commercial and noncommercial are on the air with some kind of DTV signal, leaving 189 operating on under some kind of extension, including those cited Thursday.
All commercial stations were to have been on the air with digital by May 1, 2002, while all noncoms were supposed to be up and running by May 1, 2003.