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FCC Gives 9 Stations DTV Reprieve, But Prods DTV Laggards

By Charlie White
The FCC granted a reprieve to nine large-market TV stations to broadcast digital signals, but at the same time warned 1300 other stations that are late with DTV broadcasting that they are on a "short leash." The nine stations were given six more months to comply with the FCC order to convert to DTV, while the federal regulators warned smaller stations that unreasonable delays will not be tolerated.

The Federal Communications Commission granted the nine stations in six cities, from Hartford, Connecticut to Denver and involving affiliates of the four major networks, six more months to air their full broadcast signal in digital, almost three years later than was required of other stations.

The agency also proposed a litany of sanctions it may impose on the other 1,300 stations who cannot show that their inability to broadcast in digital by the May 1, 2002 deadline was due to unforeseen or other circumstances beyond control.

"While there are opportunities for waivers, the leash is short as it must be," FCC Chairman Michael Powell said at the agency's monthly open meeting.

"We're not going to be unreasonable about it, the transition is complicated, there are bumps on the road, there are things that are beyond peoples' control," he said.

The FCC proposed that stations initially be admonished in the first six months and submit reports on progress but ratchet up to financial penalties and eventually revocation of authorization to broadcast in digital.

So far, about 580 stations have been granted a six-month extension, until Nov. 1, to be broadcasting fully in digital and the FCC is seeking more information from another 300 or so seeking extensions.

Some of the nine stations are already broadcasting to part of their area in digital but were given the extra six months to get up to full power. The leading reason for the stations' delays included still pending decisions on zoning at the local level.

Three of those stations are owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and one each by General Electric Co.'s NBC network, Viacom Inc.'s CBS network, McGraw-Hill Cos. Inc. , Tribune Co. , Outlet Broadcasting and Meredith Corp.

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Related Keywords:FCC, reprieve, large-market TV stations, broadcast digital signals, late with DTV broadcasting, short leash


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