Stations may pay for DTV delay


The Federal Communications Commission will notify several TV-station groups
this week that they must better explain why they are seeking to delay their May
1 deadline for inaugurating digital transmissions or face possible penalty from
the federal government.

Regulators are concerned that a handful of operators seeking to postpone
their digital-TV rollouts can't justify delays based on the FCC's specific

In all, nearly two-thirds of TV stations have said they will not meet the May
1 deadline.

The bulk of the 862 extension requests that have rolled in since a Feb. 18
filing window opened indicated that only a couple of extra months will be needed
to bring stations online.

Unconcerned by the standard requests, FCC staff had approved 283 though March
20 and dismissed 49 that don't yet have construction permits and aren't bound by
the May 1 deadline.

But getting a concerned eye from the agency are several midsized station
groups that have indicated that they may not be able to offer digital at all of
their stations within the next 13 months, when FCC extensions would expire.

Commission officials would not comment on the extension requests, but sources
familiar with the agency's review said letters of inquiry would be sent to
several licensees this week.

Although the letters will be little more than requests for additional
explanation, the ultimate consequence for stations that delay could be, in
extreme cases, fines.