FCC spells out sanctions for DTV dawdlers


TV stations that can't justify missing the May 1 digital-launch deadline will
have an extra six months before facing substantial penalty from the Federal Communications Commission.

The commission approved procedures Thursday for fining or even stripping
permits of digital-TV laggards, but these toughest measures won't be used right

"Our goal isn't to punish people, but to achieve the goal of getting
programming out there," said Barbara Kreisman, chief of the Media Bureau's video-services division.

Stations that can justify delays based on technical problems, delays in
scheduling construction crews, zoning fights or inability to obtain financing
are allowed up to two six-month waivers.

Those denied waivers will be sent letters of admonishment and required
to report regularly on their progress bringing digital TV online.

Admonished stations that fail to go digital within six months of the
reprimand will be issued notices of apparent liability for fines and required
to meet a series of 30-day construction milestones.

If a station fails to offer a digital signal one year after admonishment, the
FCC will revoke its construction permit.

The procedures were floated as proposed rules, but they will go into affect
immediately on a case-by-case basis until they become permanent. The commission
tentatively concluded that channels confiscated from canceled construction
permits will be reauctioned.

National Association of Broadcasters officials said Thursday that the sanctions
appeared reasonable.

"We believe the vast majority of broadcasters will work aggressively to meet
the DTV plan put forth today, as evidenced by the fact that Harris Corp. has 700
transmitters on order right now," NAB spokesman Dennis
Wharton said.