Public notice changes requirements in light of DTV Delay Act
Jumping the gun ever so slightly – after all, the DTV Delay Act still hadn’t been signed into law by the President (at least as far as we can tell) – on Thursday afternoon, February 5, the FCC released its long-anticipated public notice regarding termination of analog service on or after February 17. The following are some of the highlights of the notice.
- All stations which plan to terminate analog operation as of February 17 have to notify the Commission of their plans by Monday, February 9. This is true even though most, if not all, of those stations may have already filed such notifications. (The reason for this seeming repetitious and duplicative redundancy? The Commission wants to be sure that the hot-off-the-presses extension of the transition date – from February 17 to June 12 – has not altered any earlier decisions.)
- The FCC is granting stations that wish to terminate analog service on February 17 a partial waiver of its rules to allow for that (since termination as of February 17, once a statutory imperative, has become a statutory violation with the transition extension to June 12). However, the FCC reserves the right to limit or reconsider this partial waiver in the event it determines that analog termination on February 17 by a station or group of stations is contrary to the public interest.
- Many stations looking to turn off their analog as of February 17 have already begun airing termination notification announcements over the 30-day run-up to the Big Day. The conventional wisdom has been that the FCC would require at least 120 such announcements to be aired. And sure enough, the Public Notice imposes precisely that requirement — except the 120 announcements have got to be compressed into the time remaining (i.e., between now and 2/17) if no announcements have yet been broadcast. But now, in addition to those 120 notification announcements that stations may (or may not) have been running, those stations must also broadcast – if technically feasible – an additional crawl on the analog channel regarding the station’s termination of analog service. This must be run from February 11-17, as follows: from February 11-15 (beginning at 12:01 a.m. on 2/11 through 11:59 p.m. on 2/15), the crawl must be aired for five minutes of every hour of the station’s analog broadcast day, including primetime. For the final two days (February 16-17) the crawl must be aired for ten minutes of every hour of the station’s analog broadcast day, including primetime. The crawls must contain the same information in the PSA (i.e., “On February 17, Station (call sign) intends to cease analog broadcasting. This termination is prior to the June 12, 2009 final national digital transition date. Viewers who rely on over-the-air service will lose reception of our programming unless they use a DTV receiver or converter box. Converter boxes can be purchased from electronics retailers and online. If you subscribe to cable or satellite service, you should not lose reception. For more information, please go to www.dtv2009.gov or contact [call sign] at [street address], [email address, if available], or [phone number]).” If you do not have the ability to air crawls, you must instead air this information in an alternative format for a comparable duration.
- Stations terminating analog service on February 17 are encouraged to continue to broadcast emergency and DTV consumer education information on their analog channel after termination. This can be done by using a slate describing the transition and providing sources for information about actions viewers should take to retain television service. The FCC urges stations to do this for at least two weeks following termination of normal analog programming. Stations can continue to provide this slate of information or emergency information up to 30 days after terminating analog service. Stations intending to provide this kind of post-termination service need to advise the Commission of that intention in the analog termination notice which must be filed.
- Stations must also file updated Transition Status Reports (FCC Form 387) indicating the now-early termination of analog service on February 17.
Check back with CommLawBlog for updates as the Commission continues to grapple with the impact of the Congressional extension of the DTV transition deadline.