The FCC has released a list of 421 TV stations across the country that are going ahead with plans for the analogue cutoff and will cease to broadcast over the analogue airwaves before 11:59 P.M. on February 17, 2009. Earlier this month, congress delayed the mandatory cutoff from February 17 to June 12, but stations were still given the option to switch over early. Of the nation’s nearly 1,800 full-power televisions stations, 220 will have terminated their analog signals before Tuesday and another 421 will terminate their analogue signals on Tuesday before 11:59 pm, for a total of 641 stations, or about 36% of all full-power stations nationwide.
The FCC has dispatched staffers to 72 markets across the nation where the impact is expected to be the greatest, while broadcasters who are shutting down analog signals intensify efforts to notify and educate the public about the cutoff.
“This is not just about whether people can watch their favorite reality show,” said Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps. “It’s about whether consumers have access to vital emergency alerts, weather, news and public affairs.”
The FCC is seeking to ensure that even where all or most stations in a market are terminating analog service, consumers who are unprepared for the switch will continue to have access to critical local news and emergency information. To accomplish this, the FCC examined each market in which stations planned to end analog service to try to ensure that at least one affiliate of the four major networks – ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC – would continue broadcasting in analog after February 17. Many had such a station, but in those instances in which there would be no top-four affiliate remaining in a market, the FCC attempted to ensure that analog local news and emergency information would remain available—generally through what is being called “enhanced analog nightlight” service. Under “enhanced analog nightlight,” the top-four affiliates must keep at least one analog signal on the air to provide programming that includes, at a minimum, local news and emergency information.
“We are trying to make the best of a difficult situation,” Copps said. “While this staggered transition is confusing and disruptive for some consumers, the confusion and disruption would have been far worse had we gone ahead with a nationwide transition on Tuesday.”
The FCC is attempting to ensure that analogue viewers continue to have access to local news and vital emergency information, specifically targeting 72 markets where one or more of the top-four network affiliates are dropping analogue broadcasts. FCC staff will visit stores in those key markets to assess the availability of digital converter boxes, distribute key “how to” information for consumers making the switch, and assist in DTV walk-in centers where consumers can get hands-on transition assistance. Of particular concern will be senior citizens, low income families, people living in rural and tribal areas, non-English speakers, and the disabled.
The FCC has also increased staffing in its consumer call centers, providing 2,506 information specialists to answer consumer questions about the transition and an additional 1,759 agents through industry partners. All calls will be directed through a single number, 1-888-CALLFCC, and agents will have the ability to refer callers to local contacts for information regarding particular reception issues.
The Commission has also provided new web resources to help consumers address digital reception problems. Information and a DTV reception map that allow consumers to check reception at their own homes are available at https://www.dtv.gov/fixreception.html.