The FCC will allow WLNY-TV New York to "flash-cut" to digital-only broadcasts to make way for a wireless video service, the second such station to get permission to drop one of its signals early.
In a letter to station lawyers, the FCC said Wednesday that even though the station is technically the only one licensed to Riverhead, N.Y., the commission accepted its arguments for the switch. They included that dropping its analog signal will be "imperceptible" given the 92.2% cable penetration of the DMA and that it is moving out to help speed the transition to digital. To sweeten the pot, the station agreed to ask cable operators to convert the digital signal to analog, and agreed to supply cable MSOs with the equipment necessary to do so for the still-predominately analog cable audience.
Qualcomm, which bought WLNY's channel 55 in a government auction of the spectrum to be reclaimed after the switch to digital, says getting the channel early will allow it to deploy its MediaFLO USA video service to wireless phones. It also promised to carry local programming and "core public interest" content including news, weather and putlic affairs.
Qualcomm paid the FCC $38 million for future rights to channel 55 nationwide at an auction conducted by the FCC last summer, but it can't gain access in any market where a broadcaster is operating on the channel or where MediaFLO would create interference to stations on adjacent channels.
Qualcomm has been paying stations to exit early, but will not reveal financial arrangements.In granting the station's request, the FCC took into account that WLNY-TV, an independent, is not one of the top four stations in the New York and that it would be making way for new wireless services. The FCC last month approved its first so-called "flash-cut." But in that case, it allowed Paxson to turn in its digital channel in Buffalo, N.Y., and broadcast in analog-only until the official switch to digital.