One of the tough decisions facing the next FCC chairman is whether to delay the May 2002 DTV-rollout deadline that is facing the country's 1,288 full-power commercial television stations.
All stations were required to file their applications for DTV operation in November 1999, but less than half those requests have been processed by the FCC. Even if the FCC can somehow grant the rest in the next few months, antenna and other equipment makers will face a crush of orders many say will be impossible to fill in time.
"A lot of broadcasters won't be able to meet the deadline because they can't get equipment," says Gary Smithwick, a Washington communications lawyer. Smithwick says his clients have filed three DTV applications, one of which has been granted.
Although the 2002 deadline was set by Congress, the Mass Media Bureau has authority to grant any station up to two six-month extensions. Additional delays must be approved by the commissioners. So far, there has been no talk of a mass extension, according to an agency spokesman.