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U.S. Switch to Digital TV Reduces Coverage

The switchover to digital television (DTV) broadcast transmissions will reduce coverage, and therefore viewers, within many markets of the United States. People are unaware of the consequences of this transition -- including most TV advertisers.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released two reports that show changes in the coverage of the nation's full-power television stations as they prepare to transition from analog to digital broadcasting on February 17, 2009.

The FCC initiated this side-by-side comparison to proactively identify the changes associated with the switch to digital broadcasting by TV stations and share the information with consumer viewers throughout the country.

"It is critical that broadcasters use the information in these reports to inform their viewers about how changes in their coverage may affect them," stated FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. "We expect broadcasters to make this information readily available and include it in all of their DTV educational materials."

The DTV transition is the result of planning that began more than 10 years ago. Although the Commission encouraged TV stations to replicate their analog coverage area as closely as possible, TV stations were not required to do so.

The first report found that approximately 89 percent of stations (1,553 stations) will experience an overall net gain in the population that can receive their signals. Approximately eleven percent of stations (196 stations) will have an overall net loss in television viewers.

The second report contains maps and other information for the 319 stations where more than two percent of the population covered by their analog service will not be covered by their digital service -- essentially predicting where the viewer loss will occur.

An additional seven percent (or 123) stations are predicted to experience "some" existing population coverage loss of two percent -- when including both losses due to changes in coverage and as a result of technical differences in their digital signal.

The Commission released a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" that would create a new replacement DTV translator service to permit full-service television stations to continue to provide service to those areas with coverage loss. Again, the key word here is permit, not require.

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