The FCC yesterday issued a brief Order clarifying that stations that are flash-cutting to digital on their analog channel, or are otherwise commencing digital service on another channel as part of the transition, have the flexibility to do so at any time on June 12th without further authorization from the FCC.

[Please note, this information does not affect stations whose pre-transition and post-transition digital channels and facilities are the same. Such stations can complete the transition by simply terminating their analog service.]

Currently, DTV construction permits that specify only "Post-transition" operations state that they can only be implemented after 11:59 PM on June 12th, meaning you could not begin operations until the stroke of midnight on June 13th.  With the FCC’s recent clarification, however, stations are free to begin DTV operations whenever they are ready to go on June 12th.  This will hopefully allow stations to commence digital operations with less of a gap between the analog shut off and the digital commencement.  In addition, it will also allow stations the flexibility to commence operations on June 12th and work any bugs out during daylight hours.

Thus, for example, a station that is scheduled to shut off its analog facility at 10 AM on the 12th can begin DTV operations on that same channel at 10:01 AM instead of having to wait until after midnight.  The only caveat is for those stations whose early operation could affect another station (e.g., where Station A’s post-transition channel is the same as Station B’s channel for pre-transition).  In those cases, the FCC has instructed that the parties must coordinate with one another to ensure that the incumbent station terminates its service before the new co-channel station begins operation.  Again, no authorization is required from the FCC, but if the stations are not able to coordinate with one another, then they must wait until after 11:59:59 to commence post-transition operations.

In any case, once a station commences post-transition DTV operations consistent with their underlying construction permit, they will need to file a notification with the FCC, as well as a Form 302-DT covering license application to complete the process.