Citing “significant risk of substantial public harm,” the FCC late last week rejected the plans of 123 television stations to end analog television broadcasts on February 17, the original deadline for the nationwide transition to digital television (DTV) service. In response to a funding shortfall that halted the NTIA converter box coupon program during the first week of January, Congress passed legislation earlier this month that pushed back the national DTV transition deadline to June 12. (Meanwhile, the economic stimulus bill signed by President Obama on Tuesday allocates $600 million to NTIA that would allow the agency to resume coupon distribution by next month.) Although the DTV delay bill, which was signed last week by President Obama, gives stations the option of converting their signals prior to June 12 if they are ready to do so, the FCC is authorized to deny requests for early transition if the proposed move would prevent over-the-air viewers from accessing local news and emergency programming. In assessing each station’s request to terminate analog service, the FCC said it considered “the presence of major networks and their affiliates critical to ensuring that viewers have access to local news and public affairs over the air because the major network affiliates are the primary source” of such programming. Out of nearly 500 stations that sought to transition on February 17, the FCC approved 368 requests. The 123 stations that were rejected are scattered across 44 small and mid-sized metropolitan areas. In 22 of those markets, the FCC blocked plans by all stations to convert their signals early. The FCC has informed the rejected stations that they will have to follow eight specified steps to educate their viewers about the DTV transition or demonstrate special circumstances before they are allowed to transition early.