Hundreds of TV Stations Switching to Digital Next Week

More than a quarter of major U.S. TV stations intend to shut down their analog broadcasts on Feb. 17, sticking to the original date despite the wish of the Obama administration that they wait until June.

Congress last week gave TV stations until June 12 to shut down analog broadcasts, hoping to give viewers more time to prepare. Money has run out for the federal fund that subsidizes converter boxes, and there's a wait list for the coupons.

The delay sent TV stations scrambling to figure out when to shut down analog. Most had planned for years to do it on Feb. 17, and many had scheduled engineering work.

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The Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday that 491 of the 1,796 full-power TV stations in the country had registered their intention to keep the Feb. 17 date. The FCC has reserved the right to deny individual stations an early shutdown.

San Diego will be the largest city to lose analog broadcasts of three networks: CBS, ABC and Fox.

Smaller cities losing most or all of their major analog network broadcasts include Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla.; Charleston and Greenville, S.C.; Dayton, Ohio; Springfield, Ill.; Burlington, Vt.; Bakersfield, Calif.; Binghamton, N.Y.; Casper, Wyo.; Lincoln, Neb.; Lubbock, Texas; Mobile, Ala.; and Sioux Falls, S.D.

The major broadcast networks, which own 85 stations mainly in large cities, have committed to the June 12 date. Stations in smaller markets are more likely to feel the added economic burden of keeping analog broadcasts for another four months.

The transition to digital TV is being mandated because digital signals are more efficient than analog ones. Ending analog broadcasts will free up valuable space in the nation's airwaves for commercial wireless services and emergency-response networks.

The FCC said 190 stations have already turned off their analog signals. All stations on Hawaii made the transition in January due to environmental issues.

TVs connected to cable or satellite services are not affected by the analog shutdown. According to research firm MRI, 17.7 percent of Americans live in households with only over-the-air TV.

Most of them are ready for the analog shutdown, according to the National Association of Broadcasters. Analysts at the Nielsen Co. Nielsen said Thursday that more than 5.8 million U.S. households, or 5.1 percent of all homes, are not ready.