Tuesday, September 11, 2007

FCC Sets Rules for Digital TV Transition

The FCC adopted rules aimed at ensuring that owners of analog TV sets continue to be able to view their local broadcast television stations after the transition to digital television occurs on February 17, 2009.

Approximately 35 percent of all television homes in the U.S., or approximately 40 million households, are analog-only cable subscribers. This means about 98 million TV viewers are watching roughly 120 million analog TV sets.

By statute, cable operators must make local broadcasters' primary video and program-related material viewable by all of their subscribers.

The FCC's new ruling allows cable operators to comply with the viewability requirement by choosing to either: (1) carry the digital signal in analog format, or (2) carry the signal only in digital format, provided that all subscribers have the necessary equipment to view the broadcast content. The viewability requirements extend to February 2012 with the FCC committing to review them during the last year of this period in light of the state of technology and the marketplace.

In addition, a cable system with activated channel capacity of 552 megahertz or less may request a waiver of the viewability requirements. The Commission is also seeking comment in a Further Notice on ways to minimize any economic impact on small cable operators while still complying with the statutory requirements for carriage of local TV stations.


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