I was quite surprised to learn this morning from an Associated Press report that despite Congress’ analog shutoff delay, potentially hundreds of TV stations will go ahead with their shutoff, as scheduled, on February 17, instead of waiting until June.
The House voted Wednesday to delay the mandatory shutdown until June 12. The Senate passed the measure unanimously last week, and the bill now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature. TVs connected to cable or satellite services are not affected by the analog shutdown. But that still leaves a lot of people who could see channels go dark on February 17. According to research firm MRI, 17.7 percent of Americans live in households with only over-the-air TV.
In a nutshell, the delay would prove quite costly broadcasters, because many of them have scheduled engineering work on their equipment to make the transition on February. Therefore, “a substantial chunk and maybe even a majority” of the country’s 1,796 full-power TV stations will shut off their analog signals as scheduled next week.
One station noted in the article that keeping their analog equipment in operation until June would cost about $200,000 at a time when their state is considering cutting its contribution to the budget.
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission ordered stations that still plan to turn off analog signals on February 17 to notify the FCC by Monday. Acting chairman Michael Copps said the commission could prohibit stations from making the switch if doing so is not in the public interest. For instance, if all stations in a market want to turn off early, that would draw FCC scrutiny, he said at a commission meeting.