Demonstrating that we are getting down to the truly short strokes in this whole DTV transition thing, the Commission has issued a public notice on what to do about post-transition call signs for DTV stations. Talk about fine points. . .

When the DTV process started years ago, the Commission simply slapped a “-DT” suffix onto each TV station’s four-letter call sign and used that to identify that station’s separate DTV operation. But the primary call sign that was used to identify the station (both analog and digital operations) in the FCC’s database was the original analog call. (There were a small handful of exceptions involving cases where a digital station did not have a companion analog channel – the official call signs for those stations included the “-DT” suffix.)

When the transition finally arrives, the default will be retention of each station’s analog call sign. For example, if the station’s call is currently WFHH (with WFHH-DT for its digital operation), its official post-transition call will be WFHH. (Ditto for stations whose official analog calls currently include the “-TV” suffix: post-transition, that call, “-TV suffix” and all, will be the default call sign for the digital operation.) So if you’re happy with your plain ol’ analog call sign, you need do nothing at all

But if you hate to give up that spiffy “-DT” suffix, no problem.

Once the station has permanently transitioned to digital service, it will be able to change its call to add the “-DT” suffix at no charge on the FCC’s on-line call sign system.  

Those very few digital-only stations that had only a call sign with a “-DT” suffix may use this opportunity to dump that suffix or change it to “-TV”, if they wish – also at no charge.

One caveat – stations with a “-TV” or “-DT” suffix which share their four letter root call with one or more stations in other services may not drop the “-TV”, although they may replace “-TV” with “-DT” and vice versa.

Interestingly, the Commission’s public notice did not address the problem of how to ID the separate digital streams of any particular DTV station.  Currently, the FCC’s rules provide that such streams may be identified in connection with the station’s channel number (e.g., 22.1, 22.2, 22.3), but without reference to the station’s official call sign.