Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. is asking the Federal Communications Commission to rethink its decision forbidding affiliates of "Big Four" networks in top 30 markets from using lower-power transmission to meet their digital-television obligations.
Sinclair said the digital-TV transition is too costly and the government's buildout
deadlines too tight for all large groups to comply.
The FCC ruled in May that major stations in big markets -- generally the most
profitable category -- cannot rely on low-cost transmitters that cover part of
their coverage areas to fulfill digital-broadcasting requirements.
The lenient treatment was permitted two months ago to other stations, all of
which were required to go digital May 1 this year.
Because Big Four affiliates in top-30 markets have been required to offer a
digital signal since at least Nov. 1, 1999, the FCC reasoned that there was no reason
to lessen their existing requirements.
The ruling was issued with proposed sanctions for digital-TV laggards, including
fines and eventual revocation of licenses.
Sinclair said the restrictions violate administrative procedures for federal
agencies because it was imposed with no notice and it is unfair because Big Four affiliates may not be among the top-four-rated stations in some markets.
The ruling may pose a problem for Sinclair in St. Louis, the 22nd-ranked
market. where the company operates ABC affiliate KDNL-DT under low-power
temporary authority. KDNL is the market's fifth-rated station.