FCC may alter DTV simulcasting requirement

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The Federal Communications Commission said Monday that it might ease digital
simulcasting requirements forcing TV stations to duplicate analog programming on
their digital signals.

The agency is asking for public input on whether the simulcasting mandate
will stifle development of innovative digital programming.

Currently, TV stations must duplicate 50 percent of their analog programming
on their digital signals beginning April 1.

The simulcast requirement increases to 75 percent in April 2004 and 100
percent in April 2005.

Revision of the simulcasting requirement is being considered as part of the
FCC's latest review of the digital-television transition, issued Monday.

The FCC is also asking for a new round of comment to supplement earlier input
on digital broadcasters' public-interest obligations, which the agency said it
would delineate "promptly" despite years of inaction. Also under
consideration:

  • Whether to adopt an intermediate-coverage-area requirement for expanding
    signals beyond community of license.
  • Eliminating interference protection in uncovered areas when stations
    don't reach their maximum allotted coverage area or replicate their analog
    coverage area. ("Big Four" affiliates in top-100 markets would lose protection
    July 1, 2005; all others July 1, 2006.)
  • Ways to assist noncommercial stations' transition.
  • Digital-TV-labeling requirements.
  • Feasibility of multiple transmission sites.
  • V-chip requirements.
  • Extent of electronic-program-guide-coding requirements.

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