Stewart takes hard line on digital conversion

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Chicago - FCC Mass Media Bureau Chief Roy Stewart promised broadcasters no help with their transition to digital television on Tuesday.

Regarding the 2002 and 2003 deadlines for commercial and non-commercial broadcasters to convert to digital, Stewart said: "I don't think any firm decisions have been made at the FCC to move those dates back. There are concerns you can have as you move those data back. You might lose your ability to get the industry to sit down and work out issues."

The NAB board is due this week to vote to ask the FCC for a delay in those deadlines because they are having a difficult time getting the capital and equipment they need in small markets.

Stewart also said it's going to be a tough uphill battle if broadcasters are going to convince the commission to require cable operators to carry both broadcasters' digital and analog TV signals during the transition. "I think the broadcast industry took for granted that the commission was going to come out with a report and order giving them dual carriage," Stewart said. "But the commission has laid out that dual carriage might not be a part of this transition and if broadcasters want dual carriage they need to make a better showing at the commission than they have so far."
- Paige Albiniak

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