More than one-third of U.S. television stations are expected to ask
government permission to delay completion of digital facilities by the time a
window for filing requests closes Friday.
As of Friday, March 1, 253 of the country's 1,100 full-power stations had asked the
Federal Communications Commission to grant a six-month extension to the May 1 deadline since the agency began
accepting delay requests two weeks ago. But nearly 400 are expected to have
filed by the end of Monday.
That would be slightly higher than the 32 percent of the industry predicted
by the National Association of Broadcasters in August. Since then, the Sept. 11
attacks and the recession made a shambles of the advertising market and
seriously strained the finances of many stations.
Despite the heavy demand for delay, there is good news for government
officials seeking to keep the transition to digital TV on track -- the overwhelming
number of applicants said they need only a few extra months to complete
construction, and most won't need a second six-month extension permitted by
"The bottom line is that most of these stations are going to be built this
year," said David Donovan, president of digital-TV trade group the Association for Maximum
Service Television (MSTV).
A.H. Belo Corp. and Clear Channel Communications Inc. were among the early requesters, and they blamed
construction problems in several of their markets either on equipment delays,
hazardous construction conditions caused by winter weather or difficulty
scheduling construction crews.
Belo, which is on track with 14 stations, asked to delay digital-TV buildouts in
Austin, Texas; Tucson, Ariz.; and for two outlets in Spokane, Wash.
Clear Channel asked to delay construction in Albany, N.Y.