Echostar, DirecTV warn of digital TV blackout

Posted by Mark Raby

Satellite providers Echostar and DirecTV have issued statements to the FCC saying they may not be able to switch all local signals to digital by the government-mandated 2009 change-over.

A law passed earlier this decade calls for all analog TV signals to be cut off after February 17, 2009.  Over the past couple years, all local TV stations have begun broadcasting in both analog and digital formats.

However, Echostar and DirecTV still rely only on the analog signals for many of their local markets.  Now the two satcasters say they may not be able to change all of these signals in time, which could result in millions of paying subscribers without access to their local channels.

Over 1,000 satellite stations are still relying on an analog signal.  "Given the magnitude of the switch-over...even conducting the transition over a matter of many months would be a substantial hurdle," said Echostar, adding, "there is not sufficient manpower for such a mammoth task," reports TV Predictions.

Cable companies have a less daunting task.  According to the satellite providers, cable providers each only need to switch around a dozen stations.

The two satellite companies are asking the FCC to push back its early 2009 deadline.