Small TV stations lose appeal
WASHINGTON - A federal appeals court has denied a request from owners of thousands of low-power television stations to force a ban on government-subsidized converter boxes that can't display their signals.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Wednesday rejected the request for help filed by the Community Broadcasters Association.
The industry contends it is facing a "death sentence" because of a flaw in the government's plan to force broadcasters to shift to digital broadcasting.
The CBA in March asked the court to order the Federal Communications Commission to ban all digital set-top converter boxes that are not equipped to receive an analog signal, a request that had the potential to derail the biggest broadcasting transition since color television.
As of Feb. 18, 2009, all full-power television stations in the U.S. are required to stop broadcasting an analog signal. Anyone who gets programming through an antenna and does not have a newer-model digital TV set will need to buy a box that converts the digital signal to analog. The government is providing two $40 coupons per household that can be used to buy these boxes.
The problem facing the 2,600 low-power television stations represented by the association is that they are not subject to the deadline. Most of the converter boxes now on sale will actually block the low-power analog signal from those stations, while the full-power digital signals will display normally.
The appeals court's decision said the association failed to adequately make its case that the order, known as a "writ of mandamus," was necessary.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has posted a list of low power stations as well as thousands of signal-relay stations known as translators that will also be affected on its Web site.