Storm unlikely to halt digital TV test in N.C.
WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said yesterday he is unlikely to delay plans for an important test in North Carolina that could disrupt television service for some viewers in the path of Tropical Storm Hanna.
Wilmington, N.C., is serving as a test market for the national conversion to digital broadcasting. The city's four commercial network affiliates will stop broadcasting an analog signal at noon Monday, leaving viewers unready for the change unable to watch those channels.
Hanna, with 65 mile per hour winds and torrential downpours, was expected to come ashore between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach, S.C., late yesterday or early today. A more dangerous storm, Ike, was churning through the Bahamas.
FCC chairman Kevin Martin said it appears the rough weather will be clear of the city by the time of the test, and it looks like it will go ahead as scheduled.
"At this point, I think it's still going to end up taking place," Martin said on a conference call at around 4 p.m. yesterday.
The stormy weather worries some emergency planners who may need to broadcast emergency messages to the public about the storm or flood risks.
However, the FCC says stations may still elect to provide emergency information and announcements on their old analog channel for vulnerable viewers.
Martin said that if a decision is made to postpone the TV test, it will be announced before 2 p.m. tomorrow.
Broadcasters in Wilmington volunteered to transmit only digital signals months before the congressionally mandated national changeover. FCC member Michael Copps suggested the early test to identify potential problems.