The decision to delay the switch, which was approved by Congress earlier this month in order to give Americans more time to prepare, sent TV stations scrambling to figure out how to manage their analog signals after planning for several months to make a complete switch to a digital transmission in mid-February.
While most of the country’s 1,796 full-power TV stations accepted the delay, 491 applied to keep the original cutoff date because it is costly to keep broadcasting analog signals. About 190 stations have already cut their analog signals.
The 491 stations notified the Federal Communications Commission last week of their decision.
Of those notifications, the FCC responded that it would not let 106 stations switch on Feb. 17. Stations still desiring to turn off analog signals would able to do so, the FCC said, reported the Washington Post, as long as the stations took certain steps to mitigate the impact.
Stations would have to broadcast at least one analog signal in their market, keep some sort of analog signal on air for 30 days after the switch and increase efforts to inform the public of the change.
Of the 106 stations the FCC initially refused, 53 stations are making those moves and will switch early, 10 are in waiting for appeals, and another 43 must observe the delay, reported the Washington Post.
The Obama administration sought the delay in the analog TV shutdown after the government ran out of money for the $40 coupons that subsidize digital converter boxes. The program has a waiting list of 4 million coupons; each household can get up to two.
To deal with the change, people will need a digital converter box or a new TV with a digital tuner, or cable or satellite service. In some cases, consumers using a digital converter box may also need to update their roof antenna.
According to research provided to the Associated Press, 17.7 percent of Americans live in households with only analog TV. The Nielsen Co. said last week that more than 5.8 million U.S. households, or 5.1 percent of all homes, were not ready for the analog shutdown.
In San Diego alone, the nation’s eighth-largest city, the ABC, CBS, Fox and CW affiliates plan to end analog broadcasts Feb. 17. Other markets where many or all major-network stations still plan to turn off analog transmissions next week are Santa Barbara, Calif.; Providence, R.I.; La Crosse and Madison, Wis.; Rockford, Ill.; Sioux City, Iowa; Waco, Texas; Macon, Ga.; Scranton, Pa.; and Burlington, Vt.
Public television, which airs PBS programs like the NewsHour, has expressed particular concerns about making sure its viewers are fully informed of the switch.
South Carolina ETV, which started the transition years ago, plans to shut down the analog transmitters on Feb. 17 because of the station’s tight budget, President and CEO David Crouch said on Feb. 4.
“We’ve been through several budget reductions since November totaling about 21 percent of our budget. And that is huge for us. And part of our savings plan to deal with the budget cut was shutting down those analog transmitters on Feb. 17,” said Crouch. “We really don’t have the options financially to not move forward with it.”