Feds Will Stop Some TV Stations From Going Digital Early

FCC chairman says commission will look at public interest

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It looks like federal regulators may force some TV stations to continue broadcasting an analog signal, not allowing them to switch to all-digital to save money.

The FCC has to approve stations that want to make the move. The Los Angeles Times reports that acting FCC chairman Michael Copps was pointed in saying not all stations will get approval:

"We reserve the right to deny those requests if we find that it would not serve the public interest or if it would frustrate Congress' goal of giving consumers adequate time to prepare."

One argument for keeping analog broadcasts is safety, as many people turn to their TV for information in natural disasters and other emergencies. That was a key point behind Congress voting to delay the deadline until June that would force all stations to make the switch.

Nobody seems to know how many stations want to make the switch early. A proponent of the delay said broadcaster groups had privately estimated about 300 stations would make the switch. Added Mark Lloyd of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights: "There will be pockets of communities across the country that will have a mix of analog and digital and some that will be digital only."

The estimate may be low. At least half of the nation's 356 PBS stations alone will make the switch, according to a spokeswoman quoted by The Associated Press.