The FCC has quietly approved the requests of two TV station "hardship cases" to pull the plug on analog earlier than June 12, even though, technically, they don't meet the criteria for doing so. Since there were only four commercial station requests for waivers, that leaves only two more to decide.
The fact that the two stations weren't ending analog much earlier than June 12 helped seal the deal with the commission, according to a source.
According to an FCC spokesman, the commission has given the go-ahead to Reiten Television's KXMB-TV Bismarck-Dickinson, ND (CBS affiliate) to end analog on May 28, only two weeks early. The station said it needed to cannibalize its analog transmitter to allow it to repurpose them in the digital equipment for a pair of its satellite stations, with which it is able to reach its sparsely populated market.
The other station also wasn't asking for much of a reprieve. The FCC said Hoak Media's KAUZ-TV Wichita Falls (also CBS) could pull the plug May 21, which Hoak had argued was necessary so it could move its DTV antenna to the top of its tower mast currently occupied by the analog antenna.
With that approval, there remain only two stations whose analog fate remains up in the air. They are Nexstar's KARD(TV) West Monroe, LA (Fox) and co-owned KTVE(TV) El Doreado, Ark. (NBC).
Both want to go April 16. A decision on those two should be made within the next several days, said an FCC source. If the answer is yes, the FCC will have to waive the requirement that stations give viewers at least 30 days notice.
So far, 637 stations have pulled the plug on analog, while 927 stations had said they would keep the analog light burning until the June 12 hard date. Another 158 had said they wanted to go early. Of those, the vast majority simply had to self-certify that they were either not a Big Four network affiliate or that if they were, there would still be analog service from another Big Four affiliate through June 12, reaching at least 90% of their market. In that case, they pretty much had the green light to go between April 16 and June 12 without the FCC having to weigh in. A handful of noncommercial stations got waivers to pull the plug before April 16, which is the earliest the FCC said stations could start pulling the plug again.
But the four affiliated stations that could not meet the self-certification criteria joined the noncoms in pleading various hardships or exigent circumstances.