At its April meeting, the FCC adopted new rules and proposed others that call on three industry groups—retailers, cable providers, and broadcasters—to take certain steps that the agency believes will facilitate the nation's transition to digital television (DTV).
First, the FCC released the text of a three-sentence warning label that retailers will be required to affix to the screen of or display adjacent to each television offered for sale that tunes only analog broadcast signals. The warning informs consumers that the analog-only television they may be considering will stop receiving over-the-air signals after February 17, 2009. The warning requirement is scheduled to go into effect on May 25.
Second, the Commission proposed that cable providers be required to ensure that all cable subscribers have the ability to view all must-carry local broadcast stations. Specifically, the FCC proposed that cable operators must either: (1) carry the signals of all must-carry stations in an analog format to all analog cable subscribers, or (2) for all-digital systems, carry those signals only in digital format, provided that all subscribers have the necessary equipment to view the broadcast content.
In the same item, the agency reaffirmed that cable systems must carry high-definition (HD) broadcast television signals in HD format. The FCC will seek comment on the related issue of how to measure the quality of the broadcast signals cable systems are providing to their subscribers.
Finally, the Commission announced that it will initiate its third periodic review of the DTV transition. In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to be published soon, the agency will seek comment on several proposals for final procedures and rule changes necessary for broadcasters to carry out the final steps of the transition. According to an FCC news release, the key proposals in the NPRM will include:
- Strictly limiting future extensions of time to construct digital facilities;
- Offering expedited processing to stations applying for a construction permit for their post-transition channel (i.e., stations moving to a new channel);
- Allowing broadcasters to reduce or terminate analog service to facilitate construction of their post-transition facilities;
- Allowing stations with different pre- and post-transition channels to devote their resources to constructing the post-transition channel;
- Requiring stations that will be granted new channel allotments in the upcoming new DTV Table of Allotments to meet the February 17, 2009 deadline; and
- Requiring stations by December 1, 2007 to file with the commission a detailed transition plan summarizing the current status of the station's digital operations, additional steps the station must take to complete the transition and a plan for how the station intends to meet the February 17, 2009 deadline.
The FCC has not yet announced deadlines for commenting on any of the rules proposed at the April meeting.