The new official date for the U.S. to switch over to digital television might be June 12, 2009, but the Federal Communications Commission has just granted permission for 158 additional television stations to turn off their analog broadcasts before that date. Most of the stations transitioning early tend to be in smaller markets where the transition doesn’t present a clear public safety issue; however, the list does include NBC and ABC affiliates in Denver. Transition dates range from late March through early June; the FCC has published a complete list on its Web site (PDF).
PBS stations account for many of the early transitions, accounting for 58 of the stations transitioning early; many PBS stations are struggling for funding and shutting down analog broadcasts is a way to reduce costs, although another 128 will keep pumping analog signals until June 12. Religion-oriented Trinity Broadcasting Network is moving 26 of 34 stations to digital before the June 12 deadline.
The federal government has renewed funding for $40 coupons that can be used to defray the costs of digital converters; without a converter, analog televisions without digital receivers will not be able to receive television signals once the digital transition is complete. Most stations in major markets are currently broadcasting both analog and digital signals, so consumers can transition at any time prior to the deadline.