FCC tells 25% of requesting TV stations they can't switch on 2/17

Claiming that certain areas of the country are less ready than others for the switch to digital broadcast television, the FCC denied 123 termination notices from a list of 491.

"We have now reviewed the 491 termination notices filed by the stations intending to end analog service on February 17, 2009," reads a Federal Communications Commission public notice published yesterday (PDF available here). "We find that 368 of these stations may proceed with their intended termination of analog service on February 17th."

The DTV Delay Act, signed into law by Pres. Obama yesterday, left in a clause that lets TV stations terminate their analog service anytime between 2/17 and the new switch date of June 12. However, those stations that wished to switch early had to provide their reasons in writing to the FCC by early this week.

Apparently, the FCC's criteria for rejecting service termination requests centered on whether stations operated in lesser markets and served less populated areas -- regions of the country that it felt may not have gotten the original message about the switch.

"The primary concern of the Commission is to ensure that viewers relying on over-the-air television do not lose access to local news, public affairs and emergency information before they are ready for the full power television transition to all-digital television service," the notice reads. "It was this concern that prompted the Congress to delay the digital transition until June 12, 2009, and it is this concern that prompts our action here."

Showing no favoritism, the Commission chose to deny applications from all the major network affiliates (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) in any given area. Among the more major US cities where all affiliates applied and all were denied are: Bakersfield, Calif.; Billings, Mt.; Binghamton, N.Y.; Dayton, Ohio; Eugene, Ore.; La Crosse, Wisc.; Madison, Wisc.; Meridian, Miss.; Mobile, Ala.; Providence, R.I.; Rockford, Ill.; Sioux City, Iowa; Topeka, Kans.; and Waco, Texas.

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