Telecommunications:

Many Broadcasters Will Not Meet May 2002 Digital Television Deadline

GAO-02-466: Published: Apr 23, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 25, 2002.

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U. S. broadcast television stations are now switching from analog to digital television (DTV). The transition to digital technologies was sought by many broadcasters and was mandated by Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). FCC established 2006 as the target date for ending analog transmissions---a deadline later codified by Congress. At least 24 percent of all commercial television stations are now broadcasting a digital signal. However, these stations report little interest in receiving DTV. Transitioning stations reported that funding was one of the most prevalent problems. Seventy-four percent of transitioning stations indicated that the problems they are facing are so significant that they may not be able to begin broadcasting a DTV signal by May 2002, as required. Sixty-eight percent of transitioning stations said that a realistic extension for them would be one year or more. Thirty-one percent of the transitioning stations that said they might miss their May 2002 deadline reported that, if the transition were driven by market forces such as competition, technology, and consumer demand, they likely would not be on the air with a digital signal until after 2010. Another four percent of these stations reported that without a government mandate, they likely would never transition to digital.

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