Federal City Digest

Federal City Digest

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Monday, February 16, 2009

A Delayed Switch

Nearly 500 television stations told the Federal Communications Commission last week that they intended to go ahead and change to digital broadcasts tomorrow, the deadline for the switch they had been planning around for three years. But when Congress postponed the deadline, moving it to June 12, the FCC said it reserved the right to prevent stations from switching on the earlier date if it posed a public safety threat to particular markets.

The FCC initially responded that it would not let 123 stations switch tomorrow, our colleague Kim Hart reports, primarily because every major commercial station was planning to switch in some markets, potentially throwing consumers without digital-enabled TV sets into the dark about important public safety information and news alerts. It then amended that number to 106.

Stations still desiring to turn off analog signals would able to do so, the FCC said, as long as they took steps to mitigate the impact. They would have to make sure at least one analog signal was still on the air in their market, keep some sort of analog signal on air for 30 days after the switch, and step up efforts to inform the public of the change.

Net result: Fifty-three stations made such moves and will switch early, 10 are in limbo pending hardship appeals, and 43 must wait.

WHAT TO WATCH

· George Washington's 277th birthday sees the federal government shuttered for a three-day weekend, with the Supreme Court closed and the House and Senate not in session. But a holiday celebrating the birth of a prominent Virginian offers Virginia politicians -- and would-be politicians -- a chance to campaign. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terence R. McAuliffe is scheduled to march in Alexandria's parade today, after meeting with campaign volunteers.

· This afternoon, Air Force One returns the Obamas from their first weekend in Chicago since they moved to the White House, but the president has more travel ahead. He is slated to visit Denver, Phoenix and Ottawa in the coming week.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta federalcity@washpost.com


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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