More than 96% of full power television stations are either fully built out or on track to meet the scheduled February 17, 2009 transition date to digital transmission, according to a report the Commission released recently. Stations that have not yet completed build out are expected to provide the Commission with an updated Form 387 Digital Transition Progress Report in October.
Marking the six-month point before the deadline, the Commission's progress report touts that 1,002 of 1,798 stations (56%) are ready to make the switch. To date, the Commission has approved 649 applications for post-transition digital facilities.
However, many stations still have significant work to do. The Commission's report to Congress details the various stages and remaining tasks the 796 stations (or 44%) that have not yet fully completed construction must complete. Of these remaining stations, 736 reported that they expect to finish the transition on time, with 502 reporting no problems or obstacles the station must resolve before completion of construction.
More than 200 hundred stations have indicated that additional circumstances require attention. Specifically, 10 stations still need to coordinate with Mexico, five need Fish and Wildlife clearances, 24 require local land use approvals, 92 must coordinate with other stations, 60 are requesting a different post-transition DTV channel, 35 are reporting financial hardship limiting their ability to complete the transition and eight are working to address "other issues" before the FCC.
The Commission reports that it is trying to accommodate requests from stations and working with stations to facilitate that transition. To that end, the Commission is communicating with the 56 stations reporting that they will be able to serve 85% of their communities by February 17, 2009 but will need to complete their facilities sometime thereafter. Fourteen of these stations have already applied for a phased transition under the Commission's procedures. One station has indicated that it will need to go dark for three to four days after the transition date to complete construction.
Finally, nearly 200 stations have reported they plan to reduce or terminate analog service prior to the transition date, according to the FCC. To date, the Commission has approved 18 requests to terminate analog service, and eight stations have done so. Because as the transition nears, more stations will likely reduce or cease analog service, the Commission provided a brief overview of the steps in this process, including obtaining permission from the Commission and broadcasting viewer notifications for a particular time period prior to the action.