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From Broadcasting & Cable, by Bill McConnell:


TV stations that fail to construct digital facilities and can’t justify the delay will continue to face a Federal Communications Commission threat to strip them of digital-TV-construction permits -- a sanction that would put them out of business when the television business finally goes all digital.


Wednesday the FCC made permanent the interim rules imposed last May laying out steps that the agency will take against digital-TV laggards.


No stations face imminent threat of revocation, though.


"Although we find that overall DTV construction is continuing at an acceptable rate, we must be prepared to deal with stations that do not meet their DTV-construction obligation," the commission said.


Commercial stations already granted digital-TV-construction permits -- roughly 93 percent of the industry -- were bound by a May 1, 2002, deadline.


So far, 794 are now on the air in digital and 772 received extensions.


Stations denied extension requests will be admonished and must within 30 days outline steps they will take to finish construction and provide an approximate completion date.


Stations not in compliance six months after admonishment will be put on notice that they are liable for forfeiture.


One year after admonishment, the construction permits of stations still not built out will be considered expired and the FCC will take "whatever steps necessary" to revoke them.


A total of 71 stations were denied extensions to meet the general May 1, 2002, digital-TV-buildout deadline. Of those, 55 have since managed to get on the air, and the rest submitted extra details on equipment, zoning and other problems sufficient to convince the FCC that extensions were warranted.


Another 58 stations are nearing the end of the two six-month extensions Media Bureau staffers are permitted to grant and are seeking a third extension that can only be granted by a majority of the agency commissioners.
 

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What the FCC should do is revoke the analog license if the station isn't built by the end of the second extension. That will get the broadcaster to build their DTV facilities.


Some stations have truly honest reasons for not starting on time, but nearly all stations can afford to construct the minimum DTV facilities which costs $100,000.


They should also start authorizing more DTV Only stations. Charleston WV was just granted a DTV Only station.
 

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As a chief engineer in the TV broadcast industry, I can assure you that you will not construct a DTV station for 100,000, that will barely buy the exciter fot the transmitter.

You forget the antenna cost which can run several hundred thousand dollars, a transmitter for your licensed power at about 350,000, the coax to get the signal to the antenna at about 100 a foot. And then there is the required test equipment to maintain the picture at about 100,000.

The encoder, psip generator, etc, add another 60,000 to 100,000. I haven't even factored the labor costs, for the construction, the tower costs for hanging the antenna, etc.

And this is all just for the transmitter side, the equipment at the studio is yet another matter as well as the microwave, or fibre optic costs to get the signal to the transmitter.

I don't begin to excuse many stations for not constructing, and I fully agree with the commission, it is not like they didn't know the timeline, but do not think this is a cheap conversion.
 
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