Many TV stations to make DTV switch next week

Despite a regulator-approved delay, more than a third of the nation's TV stations plan to be broadcasting completely in digital on February 17.

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Steven Musil
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Despite a regulator-approved delay to the nationwide digital TV switchover, more than a third of the nation's TV stations plan to begin broadcasting completely in digital next week.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday released a list of 681 of the nation's 1,800 or so TV stations that plan to make the switch by February 17. TV stations were required to notify the FCC by Monday if they planned to turn off their analog TV signal on February 17.

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a bill that moves the deadline for transitioning TV broadcast from analog to digital from February 17 to June 12. The Senate has also passed a similar bill. President Obama is expected to sign it into law shortly. However, a compromise provision allows broadcasters to transition to all-digital broadcasts early if they get permission from the FCC.

Congress approved the delay out of concern that 20 million people, most of whom are poor, elderly, and living in rural parts of the country, were not prepared for the transition after the government ran out of the $40 coupons it was issuing to help defray the cost of the converter boxes necessary to allow older TVs to get digital signals.

Stations have been preparing to cut off their analog broadcasts for the February 17 deadline for months. Leaving the analog signals on will likely cost them more money as they are required to pay for the additional electricity and facility costs of running multiple transmitters. Most stations have already been airing some programming in digital.

The major broadcast networks, including ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC/Telemundo, have all agreed that their owned and operated stations would continue to broadcast in analog until the new DTV transition date.

To see which local stations plan to switch on or before February 17, check the list released by the FCC (PDF). The column labeled Nite Lite indicates whether the station plans to keep its analog signal going for 30 days past the February 17 analog cut-off date in order to provide emergency and DTV education information.