Chicago (IL) - This morning at midnight, over 400 broadcasters nationwide have reportedly made the decision to permanently shut down their analog signals and began broadcasting in digital only.
Even with the decision by Congress to delay a nationwide transition until June 12, the bill included provisions which allowed individual stations to make their own decision regarding when they would stop broadcasting in analog and get approval from the Federal Communications Commission to go digital. The FCC wanted to make sure each switch would not pose a threat to the safety of viewers in specific markets, hence the control measure.
Over 500 television stations appealed to the FCC last week, stating that they had intended to make the switch to digital broadcast on the day in which it had been originally scheduled over the past three years, February 17, 2009. The FCC notified 123 stations initially that they could not make an early switch, mainly because in many markets every major channel had plans to shut down, which would leave some consumers without access to important information and news alerts should they have failed to buy the digital converter boxes. This number was later reduced by the FCC to 106.
Stations that still have a desire to make the switch can do so if they make sure their views are aware. For example, stations would have to make sure there was still an analog signal available in their market, and continuously make attempts to educate the public regarding the switch, placing a fairly heavy burden on broadcasters when the switch should've been a simple on/off process.
Last night, one third of the nation’s television stations made the switch. The FCC sent employees to 72 markets where one or more of the top network affiliates dropped their analog broadcasts.
Viewers in areas where stations are going ahead with the switch that have trouble receiving digital broadcasts are advised to call the FCC's help line at 1-888-CALL-FCC.