According to a new FCC report, 97% of broadcasters are either on the air with their digital signal at full power or will be by Feb. 17, 2009, the congressinally-mandated date for the cut-off of full-power analog.
Of those, according to the status report, 1,002 stations, or 56%, have fully constructed facilities ready for the transition, with the only remaining step to pull the plug on analog. In fact, eight of those have asked to pull the plug on analog early, a request the FCC said it is currently considering.
That still leaves 41% of the stations (716) who said they are not done with construction, though all those said they expected to be ready at full power on Feb. 17.
The report was dated Aug. 18, exactly six months before the transition date, and was based on information reported by stations to the FCC..
Of those 716 stations not yet broadcasting DTV in full power to their full coverage area, 502 stations said they had no special circumstances impeding that full build-out, but were making "appropriate" progress. The other 234 cited special circumstances, including 10 that had to coordinate with Mexico, five that had Fish and Wildlife clearance issues. The largest category was 92 stations needing to coordinate with other stations, and 60 stations that were seeking a different post-transition digital channel. Thirty Five channels claimed financial hardship.
Fifty-six stations are taking advantage of the FCC's grace period for stations with "unique technical challenges." Those include ones that have weather issues, ones with side-mounted antennas that need to me moved to the top, or stations that have been hit by unforeseen problems, like those in New York whose towers were destroyed in the 9/11 attacks.
But even those said they would be on with a digital signal and viewable in at least 85% of their coverage area by Feb. 17.
One station said it did not think it would make the construction deadline until a few days after Feb. 17, and added that it would have to go dark for "a brief time." That is because the FCC currently has no authority to extend the analog deadline.
That station is Fox affilate KBRR Thief River Falls, Minn., a satellite of KVRR Fargo, ND. That station is having to move from its pre-transition digital channel (57) to its post-transition digital channel (10), and says it will take it until Feb. 21 to do it. The FCC says its staffers have been assured the dark period will only be those three or four days.
The FCC said three stations have not returned the FCC form on their DTV-readiness, but have said informally that they intend to be ready.