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FCC officials say they will scrutinize carefully the bids for early transition

The U.S. Congress voted overwhelmingly to delay the transition to digital TV.  While the foundation for digital has been quietly laid for years with preparation and hardware incorporation, the U.S. is slightly unique in that it will mandate all analog stations to cease broadcasting on June 12.  Previous efforts in other countries saw a gradual phase out of analog, with local cutoff dates.

Despite the fact that the transition has been pushed back officially, it may in essence still occur on February 17, the FCC is discovering.  Of the country's 1,800 television broadcast stations, about 681 have filed to go digital next week, or have already gone digital.

The vast number of applications to go digital early took the FCC by surprise.  States FCC Chairman Michael Copps, "We are six days from the most demanding consumer technology transition in the history of broadcasting.  People need to know that we are under the gun to provide flexibility (to broadcasters)."

The FCC says they are reviewing the requests for the early switch and may reject some in areas that would be cut off from analog coverage.  Such situations have been warned about by President Obama, who states, "Millions of Americans, including those in our most vulnerable communities, would have been left in the dark if the conversion had gone on as planned."

Many major broadcasters, including CBS Corp, General Electric Co's NBC and Walt Disney Co's ABC, pledged to continue broadcasting in analog and not switch early.  But according to industry analysts, those broadcasters only account for about 100 of the 1,800 stations in the country.  About 20 markets may have no local options at all, affecting about 2.3 million households, says the FCC.  In total 7.4 million households may be in areas with no analog coverage as well, but many of these households are digital-ready.

Experts with the FCC and other analyst groups estimate that 20 million mostly poor, elderly or rural households are still not ready for the switch to digital.  The FCC is trying to analyze these numbers and identify "vulnerable" markets to force analog signals to be retained in. 

Stations had to file their petitions to go digital early by February 9.  The FCC reserves the right to deny any station from transitioning to digital.  If it does so, Chairman Copps says the agency will only reverse its stance if a denial would put the station in financial or contractual duress.

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Screw the FCC.
By Motoman on 2/12/2009 1:08:38 PM , Rating: 5
...the government put out a mandate with a deadline on it years ago, telling broadcasters when they had to switch to digital. The broadcasters complied, spending huge amounts of money and effort to be ready on time. Not making the switch is a slap in the face, and affects their bottom line.

...also, as it irritatingly seems to be forgotten all the time, TV is purely a one has a "right" to it and no one *needs* it. Period. End of story. It's not a public service. IT IS NOT THAT IMPORTANT.

Get the eff over it. If you can't get TV reception, there is no possible complaint you can come up with that warrants government intervention. Stop. Effing. Whining.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By tastyratz on 2/12/09, Rating: -1
RE: Screw the FCC.
By Motoman on 2/12/2009 1:35:15 PM , Rating: 5
Radio. Newspapers.

Radio is just as real-time as TV...maybe moreso.

No excuse for "needing" TV in any way, shape, or form.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By rburnham on 2/12/2009 1:57:28 PM , Rating: 2

What programs will these people miss out on? News? There are plenty of other ways to get the news. Every other show is just fluff.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By Dreifort on 2/12/2009 2:27:03 PM , Rating: 5
Some ppl will lapse into a coma without their American Idol. I can't stand the show, but just saying - some ppl who won't be able to spend $40 in tolls calling in to vote... they will go nuts without their analog TV since they can't afford to buy a $40 converter.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By Motoman on 2/14/2009 11:49:21 AM , Rating: 2 this case, denying them TV access would be a public service, since providing it is apparently just enabling a destructive behavior (i.e. spending money on pure frivolity when you can't afford to do so).

RE: Screw the FCC.
By tastyratz on 2/12/2009 2:04:42 PM , Rating: 2
depends on the situation, it's more emergency preparedness in my book. If there's a war on the home turf I am willing to bet the paperboy is staying home.

Radio is perfectly legitimate, but times have changed and tv is a much more powerful source of media information if need be, as well as an alternate source to rely on in the event that you cant use radio.

Think of rural areas where they might pick up 1 tv station or 1 radio station....

I am no way justifying the way they have gone about things, and would do it completely different myself... I hate 90% of the way this has been run - but television is only a luxury till you need it. We have just been fortunate enough so far to not be in that scenario.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By Bateluer on 2/12/2009 2:12:23 PM , Rating: 5
I'd rather lug around a tiny portable AM/FR radio than even the smallest TV in the event of a serious emergency.

Those who say TV is a pure luxury are dead on. Its not needed, not even for emergency news.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 2:36:16 PM , Rating: 2
While I fully agree with what you guys are saying about TV being a luxury, people are much more likely to be watching TV when the emergency broadcast system kicks in than listening to the radio. Unless you are in a car, chances are you wouldn't even know there was an emergency. I know some people do listen to the radio at home, but not like in the past where the vast majority did.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By GaryJohnson on 2/12/2009 3:34:57 PM , Rating: 5
people are much more likely to be watching TV when the emergency broadcast system kicks in than listening to the radio

Unless they don't get any TV programming because they didn't get a converter box or cable or whatever. In which case, they're more likely to be listening to the radio than watching snow.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 3:45:02 PM , Rating: 1
Unless they don't get any TV programming because they didn't get a converter box or cable or whatever.
That was kind of my point, they won't get these transmissions if analogue is shutdown. I am by no means saying they should delay the shutdown because of this, I am just saying I can see why some people are concerned.(Although I think that 280 out of 300 million people with access to EAS via Television is pretty good)

RE: Screw the FCC.
By Oregonian2 on 2/13/2009 3:57:50 AM , Rating: 2
I think you missed the point he was making.

People are ONLY more likely to be watching TV IF their TV is able to see TV at all. If they've an analog set and there's no analog broadcast, they're not going to be sitting there watching the blank screen and not see the emergency broadcast. They'd more likely have their radio on -- and hear the emergency broadcast instead of seeing it. IOW not a problem.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By omnicronx on 2/13/2009 9:42:59 AM , Rating: 2
I understand what he is saying, but I do not agree. To think people are automatically going to turn on the radio because they don't have TV is wishful thinking at best. This is not the 1940's where radio was THE source of entertainment. Unless you want to listen to music, why would you be listening to the radio, regardless if there is TV reception or not. To simply shrug it off and say there is no problem is pretty naive. Not to mention radio stations take longer to receive the emergency response, TV stations are suppose to be able to broadcast the emergency message within 5-10 minutes of it being issued.(Its easier for TV stations because it gets filtered down through parent networks faster)

Once again, I am against the delay, but I do see why there is cause for concern in certain remote areas. Now whether or not this is a good enough reason to delay a nationwide switch is another issue entirely.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By fearrun on 2/13/2009 10:52:33 PM , Rating: 2
It depends a lot on the station and type of emergency. For a local area emergency I would guess that radio stations would be faster to pick up on the event. It also depends on the station, not all respond at the same pace.

Thursday evening my local CBS station was evidently rebroadcasting the East coast feed of CSI. At about 10:45PM it was interrupted with news of the plane crash and that is PST. As far as I am aware the crash occurred over three hours earlier.

Also if it is say a local or regional emergency where there is a loss of power, I doubt the vast majority of those affected would be even able to watch TV.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By Oregonian2 on 2/15/2009 10:27:01 PM , Rating: 2
If there's an emergency of some sort (power goes out, see bright flash followed by a plume over in some direction, etc) and I didn't have a TV, I think I'd turn on a radio. :-)

As to the 1940's when radio was king, in a household with no working TV, it *IS* the 1940's -- and IMO Radio would be king.

RE: Screw the FCC.
By cscpianoman on 2/12/2009 1:52:07 PM , Rating: 3
Well according to some it is our "right" to hear our politicians on the air. We need to constantly hear how our gov't is taking care of the little people. Of these supposed 20 million people over half will not make any switch until their TV shows fuzz. Delaying the transition is really showing some true colors around the US gov't.

Stations have to broadcast by law?
By b534202 on 2/12/2009 2:18:21 PM , Rating: 5
So FCC has the power of the law to force a station to broadcast analog signals?

If a TV station does not want to be in the analog TV broadcasting business on 2/17, they are not allowed to just quit broadcasting?

And this is legal?


I think if I run a business, I can end it anytime I want. Apparently not ...

RE: Stations have to broadcast by law?
By CU on 2/12/2009 2:52:31 PM , Rating: 4
I would just say my analog equipment was broke. The FCC can send/pay someone to fix it if they want. Otherwise repairs are scheduled, strangely enough, the day the FCC says I don't have to broadcast it anymore.

RE: Stations have to broadcast by law?
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 3:03:42 PM , Rating: 3
So FCC has the power of the law to force a station to broadcast analog signals?
No they do not, they have the power to disallow the use of full power digital signals.
If a station so chooses, they can take themselves off the air at anytime, they are not legally forced by the FCC to stay on the air.

RE: Stations have to broadcast by law?
By b534202 on 2/12/2009 3:28:55 PM , Rating: 2
So they're just holding the permission to broadcast digital hostage. No analog, no digital.

Real classy move there.

By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 3:39:01 PM , Rating: 2
The FCC regulates all that is radio, since its inception, it has never been your 'right' to broadcast in high power over these frequencies, whatever they may be.

And you seem to be missing the facts here, not allowing Full Power digital transmissions does not mean no transmission at all. I currently get 12 DTV channels from buffalo from almost 100 miles away with a bunny ears antenna, all from low power DTV antennas.

By theapparition on 2/12/2009 3:39:03 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely corrrect. Nor are they allowed to move frequencies from thier digial signal towards the vacated analog band unless approved.

RE: Stations have to broadcast by law?
By HotFoot on 2/12/2009 3:08:37 PM , Rating: 3
No kidding. How can the gov't force you to sell a product you don't want to? The only places I see that kind of restriction making sense is in a monopoly or near-monopoly situation.

I mean, if Microsoft suddenly decided they didn't want to sell to company X because competing company Y was paying them not to, the government might have to step in and say no-no because frankly Windows is effectively a monopoly and company X probably has a lot of 3rd party software that only works on Windows.

But that's just trying to scheme up a situation where it might be appropriate for government to do that. It just doesn't make sense for TV broadcasters.

'We're gonna miss Flipper!'

RE: Stations have to broadcast by law?
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 3:31:57 PM , Rating: 2
Let me get this straight, you equate the government shelling out billions of dollars to give you essentially a free converter box to the gov forcing you to buy a product you don't want.

Please don't give the the pooled money speech either, every single penny of those billions was as a result of auctioning off the various parts of the 700mhz spectrum. The Government does not own the airwaves either, they only enforce them, so you also cannot make the argument that they sold government property to get the money, because thats not the case.

Essentially the government made it possible to give everyone a better quality transmissions that will cost broadcasters less, and will give the people better quality video. At the most $10 ($50-40 rebate) came out of your pocket, that's it, and that's as a result of retailers upping the price because they know they can, not because the device actually costs $50.

By bohhad on 2/14/2009 1:56:47 PM , Rating: 2
omnicronx is right, once the gov't stops handing out $40 coupons, these converter boxes will magically drop in price to $10, i bet

Their Problem
By inighthawki on 2/12/2009 1:09:01 PM , Rating: 2
Experts with the FCC and other analyst groups estimate that 20 million mostly poor, elderly or rural households are still not ready for the switch to digital.

While I can understand why some elderly people may have had problems, the poor and rural have no excuse. Coupons for FREE converters were available, so poor people have no way to complain about not having one if they wanted. People living in rural communities can easily get one at any time they want by getting up and driving. If all the years they've already given us weren't enough time for these people to get what they needed, I don't think the extra few months will do much good.

RE: Their Problem
By Suomynona on 2/12/2009 2:41:13 PM , Rating: 2
They ran out of coupon money before everyone was able to get one. I'd agree that many -- or even most -- people who haven't gotten one yet have themselves to blame for not getting them early, but it's not like there were enough coupons to begin with.

RE: Their Problem
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 3:23:58 PM , Rating: 3
Its not like it was a random draw regardless of when you submitted your request. Those that submitted for a coupon early got one, those (like yourself) that waited did not. How can you expect us to feel sorry, regardless if there was a shortage to begin with.

RE: Their Problem
By TomZ on 2/12/2009 3:43:34 PM , Rating: 2
Nobody expects your sympathy, however, you have to acknowledge the failure of the governement to properly execute the DTV converter coupon program.

After all, they designed and ran a program, and then didn't fund it adequately. And then, when the funding ran out, instead of fixing that problem, they sat around on their hands and did nothing to solve it.

Even today, are they sending out coupons yet? I doubt it.

If you want something screwed up, then allow the government to do it. That works every time. That's why I cringe when I think about the government being in charge of reviving the economy, and also when I hear about people wanting to expand government-provided health insurance (as I heard this AM on NPR). Makes my head want to explode!

RE: Their Problem
By Keeir on 2/12/2009 4:09:17 PM , Rating: 2
After all, they designed and ran a program, and then didn't fund it adequately. And then, when the funding ran out, instead of fixing that problem, they sat around on their hands and did nothing to solve it.

The problem with the coupon program was not the amount of funding by the restrictions placed on recieving a coupon.

Current rates for actually using the coupons after applying for them is less than 60%!.

There is more than enough money to provide for the entire current wait list if we assume the current outstanding coupons are redeemed at the same rate. Thats not even removing those from the wait list that probably don't need the coupons.

The only way I can see more than 40% of people not using thier free coupons is that they applied for them and then realized they didn't need them. After all, there is essentially no penality or restrictions for applying for the coupons, so why not?

Rather than wholesale blaming the government (which should have known better after all), I think its pretty clear we have to acknowledge the greed and stupidity of many of the people using the program.

Even today, are they sending out coupons yet? I doubt it.

For the additional funding, probably not. However, the coupon program has been sending out new coupons as the old ones expire. Someone on the order of 40,000+ coupons expire every week....

RE: Their Problem
By JohnnyCNote on 2/13/2009 7:39:01 AM , Rating: 1
Coupons for FREE converters were available

Where and from whom? Perhaps facts aren't important to you, despite how the lack thereof tends to weaken your position more than anything anyone else could say . . .

Analog Cutoff
By rfurman on 2/12/2009 1:23:34 PM , Rating: 4
The delay is ridiculous. Digital broadcasts have been live for ten years, the analog cutoff has been set for three years, and consumers have had eighteen months to get their coupon and converter box. Just how much time do they need to get ready?

People in rural areas who fall outside the digital coverage area will still be outside the digital coverage area come June 12.

All Congress has, in their infinite idiocy, managed to do is create a situation that will be even MORE confusing to consumers. Some stations changing next week, others waiting until June, and still others flipping the switch sometime between now and then.

RE: Analog Cutoff
By howie123clarkkent on 2/12/2009 2:10:18 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. The people that aren't ready now still won't be on June 12. Flip the switch 02/17 like originally planned. TV is a luxury though, I think, newspapers & radio can take their place for those who need news!

RE: Analog Cutoff
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 2:47:50 PM , Rating: 2
*Gets up to get morning news paper*

"All of the United States Nuked, no survivors!"

*Phhhew.. glad I still get the newspaper*

As much as I hate the delay, it does somewhat make sense for many rural areas in which their only warning system is the EBS. You cannot expect people to start listening to their radios all the time just because they no longer have TV.

Its not entirely a bad idea to have at least 1 remaining analogue transmission per area. This is what Obama and Co are worried about, not that people won't be able to watch American Idol.

But from another point of view (lets play devils advocate here), class 2 analogue repeaters are not being forced to cease transmissions (nor are they likely to do so), this should cover the vast majority of those with only one receivable channel.

By futrtrubl on 2/12/2009 1:26:12 PM , Rating: 2
The U.S. Congress voted overwhelmingly to delay the transition to digital TV.

Umm, wasn't it totally rejected the first time and only got through the second time with some massaging?

RE: Sensationalist
By UNHchabo on 2/12/2009 1:40:31 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget about the padding of the bill with superfluous crap in order to get more congresscritters on board.

RE: Sensationalist
By MozeeToby on 2/12/2009 4:53:36 PM , Rating: 2
No, actually that isn't true.

The bill was unanimously passed in the senate and recieved 60% of the vote in the house which is not enough to skip the debate and discussion portion but is enough to pass the bill normally. In other words, the 'defeat' the bill suffered was really a detail of parlimentary procedure, not a true defeat.

Jiminy Cricket's! throw the switch already
By Jay2tall on 2/12/2009 2:00:12 PM , Rating: 2
For the love of Pete, throw the damn switch next week. If you do not have a converter box, it's your own fault. If you NEED a coupon you should have not waited to the last minute, to bad, read a newspaper maybe you can edumacate yourself a bit that way. Otherwise, fork over $50 and get the box.

I have to laugh, because the networks still want to throw the switch on time. I am sure this is not a simple feet for them and they have coordinated technicians and administrators already to do this. Spent tons of money already, done countless tests, and have a time line. Who is the government to say that they can't throw the switch? They set a date that everyone complied with and now they are saying. Oh no wait, we have losers that didn't get there little box and need a coupon. If you missed the boat, to bad, stay on Gilligan's island with the Professor and Mary Ann.

By albundy2 on 2/12/2009 3:52:11 PM , Rating: 2
i totally agree.

once the cupons dissapear, the price for the boxes will drop to $10.00 at walmart. then the okies will be ready.

By blueboy09 on 2/12/2009 4:39:03 PM , Rating: 4
For those DT users who are curious about whose stations that are cleared or not I have a list from the FCC web site - must see -

Rant, Rant, Rant
By JohnnyCNote on 2/12/09, Rating: 0
RE: Rant, Rant, Rant
By omnicronx on 2/13/2009 10:26:48 AM , Rating: 2
Any of us could be affected, just not in the sense you are thinking about. There are many, many people who already take advantage of OTA DTV. I live in the city, I have digital cable, but I refuse to pay for HD channels and an HD receiver when I can receive all of the main HD channels for free OTA, and with better quality. I personally can't wait until they turn DTV channels to full power as right now the signals I receive are spotty at best. I went out and spent some good money for a quality UHF antenna, and HDTV capture devices for my PVR thinking the shutdown would occur in Feburary, not in June. (and before you ask, all of my equipment will cost me less than 8 months of cable HD service)

RE: Rant, Rant, Rant
By JohnnyCNote on 2/13/2009 4:25:16 PM , Rating: 2
I've been hearing about HDTV for over 20 years, since I first read an article on the subject in Video Magazine in the mid 80's. When compared to that, a few months more is a small fraction of the total time this has been in the works . . .

Oh, great.
By chromal on 2/12/2009 1:10:29 PM , Rating: 3
So we've gone from Neilson (remember Neilson ratings?) tried to seem relevant by announcing their estimates of 6.5 million homes not ready for the DTV switchover. Now it's twenty plus million? I'm calling BS. Show me twenty million petition signatures, or they are full of crap. Who are these losers who have been blissfully ignoring the inevitable for YEARS now? Let them watch static on their obsolete boob toobs, Gebus.

By pequin06 on 2/12/2009 1:21:03 PM , Rating: 2
The vast number of applications to go digital early took the FCC by surprise.

Just because the deadline was recently pushed back the FCC is surprised?

Bureaucrats truly live in a different world. In the private sector deadlines do matter .

By A Stoner on 2/12/2009 2:07:16 PM , Rating: 2
The the retards screw it up over and over and over again. In order to have nonconvoluted airwaves, the government is needed to insure companies are not stepping all over the airwaves. Thus the government has a duty to the citizens to ensure that the airwaves are regulated enough, and here they prove they are incompitant to do this right.

This reminds me of something...
By amarr on 2/12/2009 11:33:16 PM , Rating: 2
Ohh! I remember now... remember when you were in 10th grade, and a teacher assigned a reading/project/test that was due on Friday, and on Thursday the whole class got together and begged the teacher to put off the reading/project/test until Monday, so they would have the weekend to work on it? I remember that... I remember we all needed the weekend, because we were all too lazy to start working on the reading/project/test in time to finish it by Friday.

Oddly enough when the teacher said "not a chance" everyone was still able to get the reading/project/test done on time. What does that tell you?

If they have a tv they can find a converter box. A lot of these people aren't going to get off their butts and do something about it until their tv goes blank. I get it, some people can't physically get off their butts, have no relatives, and no money. If that's the case having no tv is going to be the least of their problems.

Since when did procrastination become a recognized disability taken into consideration by the U.S. Government?

By monkeyman1140 on 2/13/2009 3:33:58 PM , Rating: 2
I got my converter boxes last YEAR. I don't see how there's a shortage, literally dozens of companies make converter boxes, Circuit City before they went under had piles of them in stock, Radio Shack always keeps about 25 of them per store, and Wal-Mart is a clearinghouse for those little plastic boxes.
The best incentive for people to get a converter box is static on the TV.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
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