New FCC Rules for DTV Transition

The FCC last week released a new set of rules for broadcasters to guide them through the rest of the digital television transition. The new set of rules dictates stations must notify viewers of signal loss and educate consumers on reception issues. Guidelines were also introduced for stations who wish to terminate their analog service before June 12, 2009.

Broadcast stations who have not yet made the transition will now be required to educate consumers about a range of issues including:

  • Signal loss:  Stations must provide on-air and other notifications of potential signal loss if 2 percent or more of their analog viewers are predicted to lose service, regardless of whether stations gain viewers in other areas.
  • Antennas: All stations must include information about the use of antennas as part of their consumer education campaigns, including additional information if they are changing from the VHF to UHF bands and viewers may need additional or different equipment to avoid loss of service
  • Scanning: Stations must inform and remind viewers about the importance of periodically using the rescan function of their digital televisions and digital converter boxes. During the time surrounding the conclusion of the transition, many stations will be changing the service areas and the broadcast frequencies of their digital transmissions.  As a result, viewers will need to periodically rescan during this period in order to ensure that they are correctly receiving all the digital broadcast services available to them.

"The guiding principle here is simple -- consumers deserve to know the truth,” said Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps.  “They will forgive a lot, but they won’t forgive being lulled into a false sense that the transition will be less disruptive or less expensive than it turns out to be."


Major Networks wishing to terminate their analog service prior to June 12 will now be required to show that over 90% of their audience will receive continuing analog service from another major network until the June 12 deadline. If more than 10% of analog viewers would lose service from all major networks then that major network affiliate is responsible for other public interest conditions including requirements for walk-in help centers, consumer referral telephone numbers and DTV education.


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