368 of the stations expressing a desire to abandon their analog service on 2/17/09 have been cleared by the FCC to do so, leaving 123 on the bubble. The Commission is putting permission on hold in markets that would lose all analog Big Four affiliate service. The FCC took the occasion to commend the stations that plan to remain on the air with both streams, amounting to about two thirds of all full-power stations.
Those stations on the list of 123 have to make their case for shutting analog down by today, and co-market stations are encouraged to state their case as a group.
The key concern is that at least one station with local news and information programming continues to operate in analog for at least 60 days past the 2/17/09, and that it provides information on the transition. Other provisions include a running analog night lights, various consumer outreach and educational measures, accessible by English-speaking, Spanish speaking and disabled individuals.
The FCC is asking that analog shut-off pleadings not exceed five pages, excluding attachments. It also warns that it does not expect many stations will be able to “meet the high burden applicable to this showing.”
List of stations on the bubble:
RBR/TVBR observation: We have to hand it to Acting Chairman Michael Copps. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case, the lack of squares on the calendar has caused the invention of the rarely seen concept of speed at a bureaucracy. That said, this also proves the old axiom that no good deed goes unpunished – the stations that are likely to be forced to take on the continued burden of dual stream broadcasting are precisely the ones who have been doing the best job of serving the public interest already.