How U.S. Television Stations are Responding to Digital Conversion

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Brad Schultz

[WJMCR 5:3 June 2002]

Sections: 

Introduction|Theory|Results|Discussion|Limitations|Conclusion


Introduction

According to the Federal Communications Commission and other important industry stakeholders, the transition to digital television continues to move forward full steam ahead. As of January 2003, for example, the FCC indicated that 94% of eligible U.S. television stations had been granted a digital construction permit or license. Of stations in the top 40 television markets, 88% of eligible network affiliates are currently broadcasting a digital signal.1 This comes at a time when the cost of digital television sets continues to decline, and consumer acceptance of the technology continues to increase. By many accounts, it appears the digital transition is finally headed for some smooth sailing.

But there are still plenty of signs of dangerous waters ahead, especially for U.S. television stations required by the FCC to implement the new technology. The American media landscape has changed drastically in the generation leading up to digital technology. Deregulation in the 1980s, which climaxed with the Telecommunications Act of 1996, relaxed rules on media ownership. The result has been a tremendous increase in media mergers and consolidations, as larger companies continue to swallow up smaller ones. According to Bagdikian, only six companies now control the country’s most widespread news, commentary and daily entertainment programming.2

As media companies combine, their audiences have split. An explosion in program offerings and alternative channels has resulted in audience fragmentation and the development of smaller `niche’ audiences. A 1998 survey by Statistical Research Incorporated showed that the percentage of homes with more than 80 channels had doubled in just one year, while the number of homes with Internet access had doubled just since 1996.3

Another issue for industry executives is the tremendous cost of digital implementation. Depending on the level of the digital overhaul, a station can spend anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. According to the Radio and Television News Director’s Association, a simple `pass-through’ approach can cost a station $6 million for tower work, transmitter, antenna and transmission line, a transmitter link to master control, an encoder/decoder, tape decks to insert commercials, monitors, a router and a switcher. Contrast that to WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, which went with a `top of the line’ digital conversion that it estimates cost $26 million.4

Consolidation, fragmentation and escalating costs have combined to cast a shadow of doubt across the entire system of media economics. Chan-Olmstead wrote, “As the media industry continues to develop with sophisticated technologies … it renders current models of competition in mass media obsolete.”5 Industry leaders have begun to question the standard advertising revenue model and whether it can support the broadcast media in this new age. According to Lefton:

Technology is making traditional commercials obsolete. With hundreds of cable and satellite channels, viewers have more reason than ever to surf during commercial breaks. And before long viewers will be able to order programs on demand … probably the deathblow to traditional commercial breaks.6

A study from PricewatershouseCoopers revealed that digital television will require new business models, new programming models and more efficient systems.7 But exactly what economic models and systems will support the untested technology remains a mystery to most station owners and industry executives. Said former FCC chairman William Kennard, “Nobody-nobody-can predict, with any degree of certainty how it’s all going to work out.”8

All of these factors have combined to create an uncertain environment for digital television and a very uncertain future for television broadcasters. A few years ago, FCC chairman Michael Powell called the situation “a potential train wreck. The government-mandated schedule will force broadcasters to spend billions before they have any inkling of what consumers prefer.”9

This study attempted to assess this `potential train wreck’ from the perspective of U.S. television stations. Would these issues related to digital conversion have different effects on different types of stations? Specifically, the study focused on digital conversion in regards to four groups of U.S. television stations: public, religious, low-power, and commercial. Each of these groups faces unique challenges associated with the digital conversion, and could potentially respond to the conversion in different ways.

“Commercial” stations refer to those stations that meet the definition and classification of commercial stations as determined by the FCC. This would include those stations that operate at high or full power on a for-profit basis, usually by means of selling and airing commercial advertising, and meet other FCC requirements. `Religious’ stations meet certain definitional characteristics, most notably that the majority of their program schedule is dedicated to religious, evangelical or spiritually-oriented programming.

“Low-power” stations are those that broadcast at no more than 1,000 watts for normal VHF (very high frequency) stations and 100 watts when a VHF operation is on an allocated channel. It contrasts with regular full service TV operations that are permitted up to 100,000 watts of power. “Public” television stations are also known as educational stations because they primarily broadcast educational, historical and cultural programming. But they are mainly identified by their non-profit status, which also includes reduced or limited levels of advertising revenue and some type of government funding.

These station groups were selected because each group has such drastically different revenue structures and economic models. Commercial and low-power stations rely mainly on advertising revenue, religious stations rely on viewer donations, and public stations receive funding from the federal government. It was believed that this could lead each station group to make different economic responses to the digital conversion.

For example, unlike the other groups, public stations will receive support from the federal government to help defray digital conversion costs. Various estimates place the cost of digital transition for all the country’s public stations at around $1.8 billion. Of that amount, public broadcasters have asked the federal government to pay between $600-700 million over a five-year period, with public stations picking up the rest.10 While Congress has balked at the proposal and offered much less in terms of funding, there is no doubt that public broadcasters will get a significant amount of government help, probably in the neighborhood of 33%-50% of the total digital conversion cost.11

Low-power (LPTV) and religious stations will certainly face more financial hardship in the digital transition. Many religious stations do not have commercial viability, due either to poor program ratings or ethical reluctance to embrace advertising. As a result, such stations operate with budgets far less than those of secular broadcasters. Religious media scholar Quentin Schultze said that religious broadcasting “must appeal to Generation-Xers and baby boomers or it won’t be around. It’s clear that the younger audience will decide the fate of Christian television.”12 But Barna Research reports that people under the age of 40 are the least likely of all age groups to attend church, volunteer their time to church, read the Bible or pray.13 Such an audience is hardly conducive to the traditional approach of religious broadcasters, which includes direct money appeals. As a result, many religious broadcasters say their current economic model will not survive the digital conversion, forcing many stations off the air or into consolidation.14

LPTV stations operate at less power and have far smaller audiences than full-power stations, and in formulating digital television policy the FCC has maintained the `secondary’ status of low-power stations. At one time the FCC estimated that fully 45% of all LPTV stations would either have to change their operation or cease to exist.15 In 2000, the FCC finally accorded LPTV station owners a measure of protection, creating for them a Class A television service. Qualifying stations would be considered `primary’ television broadcasters, subject to the same license terms and renewal standards as full-power stations.16

Theory and Research Questions

The study attempted to assess how these different stations would act in light of the digital conversion. There is no lack of theoretical discussion on how the broadcasting industry adopts new technologies. According to Rogers17, the personal characteristics, values and belief systems of those adopting the new technology plays a crucial role in how and when that technology becomes implemented. For example, the younger ‘innovator’ group adopts new technologies earlier and faster than the older, more traditional ‘laggard’ group. While Rogers focused on individual responses, Greve18 applies diffusion theory to organizations, and specifically the radio industry. In his study of why radio stations change formats, Greve found that entry into a new market is a diffusion process where a critical factor is the imitation of early adopters. His findings provided an important insight into how stations will adapt and what path they will choose to follow.

While diffusion theories are important, this study applied Oliver’s theoretical model of organizational response.19 It would be much simpler to make assessments strictly on financial resources, but that may not be the most comprehensive method. Oliver argued that, “The likelihood that organizations will conform to institutional pressures is not exclusively dependent on the legitimacy or economic rationality anticipated by conformity.”20

Instead, Oliver described organizational behavior as a strategic response to institutional changes (such as the government-mandated conversion to digital television). In the face of change or institutional pressures, organizations react based on a variety of factors. Such outside pressures must be viewed in terms of what is causing the pressure, which constituents are exerting the pressure, the content of the norms to which the organization is being pressured to conform, the means by which the pressure is exerted and the environmental context in which they occur (see Table 1).

For example, Oliver defined the cause of institutional pressures as “the rationale, set of expectations, or intended objectives that underlie external pressures for conformity.”21 This cause is generally defined in terms of either legitimacy (social fitness) or efficiency (economic fitness). In terms of the cause, outside pressures can make the organization either more socially fit (such as laws regarding safety conditions) or more economically fit (such as laws that promote business efficiency).

In a similar vein, organizations depend on a variety of constituents. In the case of multiplicity, such constituencies are multiple and conflicting. The level of dependence organizations have on such constituencies also varies. For example, public television stations are highly dependent on both the government and private donors for funding. By contrast, commercial stations are more dependent on advertisers and the viewing public.

The content of the outside pressure is also important. Sometimes, such content is compatible with the internal goals of the organization. It could be argued that deregulation of ownership limits on television stations is compatible with business goals at those stations. If the organization believes the content is not compatible with internal goals, there is a higher level of constraints and a lower level of consistency. For example, many stations might view the legislative ban on cigarette advertising as a constraint.

The institutional factor of control refers to the level of sanction or coercion involved with the outside pressure. The threat of legal coercion or enforcement can be quite high, as in the case of digital television. The FCC has mandated the conversion, and stations that do not comply face the potential loss of their operating licenses. In some cases, control can be voluntary and less severe. This would apply to regulations and operating procedures of stations that belong to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). The NAB has rules and regulations for member stations, but compliance is mostly voluntary.

Finally, the context of the outside pressure can influence organizational behavior. There can be a high degree of environmental uncertainty in which the pressure takes place. This would refer to a situation in which business conditions cannot be accurately anticipated or predicted. There is often a high degree of environmental uncertainty when new media technologies emerge, such as the chaotic early days of radio and television.

The degree of interconnectedness is also important in the context of outside pressure. This refers to the level of inter-organizational relations among occupants of a given industry. It is possible that broadcast stations act with higher degrees of interconnectivity in the face of uncertain environments. Such stations might want to work together (through such organizations as the NAB) to promote common interests and overcome unforeseen obstacles.

Based on these conditions, Oliver theorized that organizations will make specific strategic responses. How the organization perceives the outside pressure for change will determine how it reacts. For example, if an organization feels like the outside pressure is socially legitimate and economically efficient, it should respond with high acquiescence and avoid strong resistance. However, if an organization has strong, conflicting, multiple constituencies, and the content is viewed as constraining rather than consistent, the reaction is more likely to be open defiance of the outside pressure.

This model has direct application to television stations and the digital conversion. The factors related to digital conversion vary for each group of stations. This would include such things as FCC timetables, the cost of conversion, the strength of conflicting constituencies, etc. Therefore, it would be logical to assume that different groups of stations would have different responses to the digital conversion process. `Responses’ could mean one of several things in this context. It could be a planned economic response, a response in terms of timetables for implementation, a response related to future management styles, etc. This led to the following research questions, which guided the study:

RQ1: What are the responses to digital conversion for the four groups of stations?

RQ2: What are the causes or attitudes that are shaping station response to digital conversion?

Methodology

A questionnaire was developed to answer the research questions and gauge the attitudes and behaviors of decision-making executives for each type of station in the study. Most names, addresses, stations and station information used in the questionnaire sample were gathered from the Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook.22When necessary information was missing, gaps were filled from TV station application information at the FCC, which keeps more detailed records than the Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook. Using these sources, a stratified sample of broadcasting executives was created. These executives included owners, presidents, managers or anyone else with ultimate decision-making power at the station. An nth-series method was used to build the sample, taking every fifth station from the industry listings. This method led to a total sample size of 330.

The research questions were assessed with a postal questionnaire in the fall of 2001. Originally, the questionnaires were designed as an electronic mail instrument, but a pilot test conducted in the spring of 2001 found low response rate problems with this method. Response was much better for a postal version of the pilot test; therefore, the researcher decided to conduct the survey by U.S. mail. The mailings were conducted in October 2001, and based on Dilliman’s (2001) total design method, which emphasizes repeated contacts. Contacts included a pre-notification letter, the questionnaire and cover letter, and finally follow-ups by mail, phone and electronic mail.

Of the 330 initial contacts made, a total of 11 were refused or returned as undeliverable. This left 319 valid possible respondents, of which 104 actually returned a completed questionnaire, for a response rate of 32.6%. Of this total, the highest return rates came from public (60%) and commercial (25%) station respondents.

Response for the mailing may have suffered because of some unfortunate circumstances. Shortly after the first questionnaires went out, television newsrooms across the country began receiving the anthrax bacteria in the mail. Three people died, and traces of the bacteria were confirmed in mailings sent to NBC and CBS in New York. At least three television station representatives called the researcher and said questions about safety prompted them to have local law enforcement open the manila envelopes in which the questionnaires were mailed.

These developments had obvious implications for response rate and potential non-response error. As a result, the researcher conducted qualitative, in-depth, phone interviews with broadcasters representing all four station groups. These interviews were conducted in April 2002, after all the data were collected. This represented a difference of six months between survey distribution and interviews, but the interviews were not used to collect quantitative material. Rather, they were used to add qualitative information to the data already collected, such as motivations, explanations, etc.

Results

RQ1: What are the responses to digital conversion for the four groups of stations?

Station executives from each of the four groups were asked their specific responses to the digital conversion process (see Table 2). In terms of economic response, the top choices were creating outside revenue streams (33%), improving the existing economic model (27%) and developing new economic models (25%). There were some slight differences among the stations regarding their planned economic changes, but overall these differences were not considered statistically significant at the .05 level (c2 = 22.25, df = 15, p = .10).

But there were some interesting differences regarding new revenue possibilities and the timetable for digital implementation. Stations were asked if they had begun investigating new ways of producing revenue after digital conversion (see Table 3). Public stations (79%) were more likely to have begun these investigations compared to religious (52%), commercial (50%) and low-power (40%). In addition, public stations were significantly more likely to have begun these investigations than the other responding groups (c2 = 10.86, df = 3, p = .01). Public stations where also much more likely than other responding stations to have already converted to digital broadcasting (see Table 4). Since some of the individual cell values were less than five, the data groups were recoded. When comparing public stations vs. all other stations in a chi square, there was significance at the .05 level (c2 = 4.31, df = 1, p = .03).

The proportion of religious stations that indicated plans to sell (9%) was higher than commercial stations (4%), public (0%) and low-power (0%) stations. Respondents were also asked their attitudes about selling the station on a scale of one to seven, with one indicating no desire to sell and seven indicating a high desire to sell (see Table 5). There was a significant difference at the .05 level between low-power stations (mean = 4.56), commercial (2.30), religious (2.05) and public (1.38). An analysis of variance (F = 11.12, df = 97, p < .001) confirmed that low-power stations were much more likely to sell compared to all other station groups. A Scheffe test indicated that the mean differences between low-power stations were statistically significant at the .05 level compared to public (3.18), religious (2.51) and commercial stations (2.25).

RQ2: What are the causes or attitudes that are shaping station response to digital conversion?

In addition to specific responses, station executives were also asked about their attitudes toward digital conversion. In many cases, these attitudes had a direct bearing on how stations have approached the conversion process. For example, one question asked executives how they perceived digital television would benefit their stations (see Table 6). In this regard, an ANOVA revealed a statistically different attitude among public stations versus other station groups (F = 30.24, df = 100, p < .001). Public stations had a much higher perception of benefit that did other station groups, and going by mean responses, only public stations perceived any positive benefit from the digital transition.

Public stations also attached much more importance to digital technology as a whole. Executives were asked how important digital technology would be in the future management of their stations (see Table 7). An ANOVA suggested a significant difference between public stations and other station groups on this issue (F = 11.29, df = 99, p < .001), as public stations perceived digital technology as much more important.

In terms of economic attitudes, one question asked executives if current revenue would continue to sustain the station after the digital transition (see Table 8). An ANOVA indicated a significant difference between the station groups on this issue (F = 2.85, df = 103, p = .04). Although a Scheffe test failed to indicate significant differences between individual station groups at the .05 level, the data seemed to indicate that low-power and religious stations were much more pessimistic on this issue compared to public and commercial stations.

Discussion

Results of the study suggested that public stations perceived much more benefit and importance from the digital conversion than did other station groups. This would explain why public stations had begun implementing digital technology at a faster rate than other stations, and had also been much quicker than other stations in terms of investigating potential new revenue streams.

Regarding the Oliver model, it appears that in terms of the cause (see Table 1), high levels of legitimacy and efficiency were major influences for public stations. Oliver wrote, “When an organization anticipates that conformity will enhance social or economic fitness, acquiescence will be the most probable response.”23Public station respondents felt optimistic about the digital conversion, which they viewed as something that would ultimately enhance the station’s economic fitness. As a result, they have taken a very enthusiastic approach to digital conversion.

Many of these observations were confirmed in an interview with John Henson of KTXT in Lubbock, Texas. Mr. Henson is the Associate Vice Provost for Telecommunications at Texas Tech University, which owns and operates KTXT. The station is an affiliate of PBS, and Mr. Henson estimated that conversion costs would run about five million dollars.

According to Mr. Henson, the digital conversion process will not mean substantial economic changes for KTXT. “We will continue to depend on [government] grants,” he said. “I don’t foresee increased university support, which leaves underwriting and viewer support. But there’s no doubt we can come up with the money for our [local] programming and network programs.”24

Mr. Henson also indicated that public broadcasters in Texas were working on funding models as a group, through the Texas Public Broadcasters Association (TPBA). “The bigger stations have taken the lead in developing foundation and federal grants,” said Mr. Henson, referring to the traditional economic sources from which public broadcasters have relied on for support.”25

Other groups of stations, notably religious and low-power, have resisted digital conversion, or at least not been as enthusiastic about implementation. This also fits Oliver’s model in that organizations with low consistency are less likely to acquiesce or compromise. According to Oliver, “Defiance and manipulation strategies are predicted to occur most frequently when consistency is low. The organization may unilaterally dismiss or challenge [outside requirements].”26

This was further confirmed in qualitative data provided by Greg Phipps and Ken Mikesell. Mr. Phipps owns two low-power stations, WOHL and WLQP, both in Lima, Ohio. Not all low-power stations have to convert to digital, but the conversion process still has a profound effect on LPTV stations.

“The big danger is displacement,” said Mr. Phipps. “Many stations are knocked off the air because bigger commercial stations need the space. Overall, the spectrum is really crowded and many low-power stations don’t have channels to move to.”27

Mr. Phipps said that while WOHL received Class A designation and was thus protected from displacement, WLQP was not protected. As a result, he said he would “seriously listen to any legitimate offer” to buy the station. “All I read in the industry papers is to brace and get ready for a wave of consolidation,” he said. “The pundits say all the [low-power] stations will be bought up.”28 Such stations are attractive targets for larger media companies looking to expand their consolidation efforts.

As a result of these conditions, Mr. Phipps said he is doing the digital conversion as cheaply as possible. He projects total conversion costs for the two stations at under $100,000. “Long range planning is really tough because there are so many questions,” he said. “With no market and a small audience, we’ll hang on to our analog signal as long as we can.”29

Ken Mikesell is the general manager of WTGL in Orlando, Florida. WTGL is a non-commercial religious station owned by Good Life Broadcasting, which also owns a commercial religious station in the state. Although he would not give specific figures, Mr. Mikesell said the cost of converting a non-profit station was “horrific.”

Because of high conversion costs, WTGL will not go digital for at least a year. “We feel we are being forced to sell a valuable asset to settle for a non-commercial station,” said Mr. Mikesell. “This is a real problem for religious stations.”30 Mr. Mikesell added that WTGL needs to create new economic models, such as leasing unused spectrum space, but the financial reality of the situation has not allowed the station to do that. “We are really struggling with this conversion,” he said. There is no money to convert and I don’t see any for several years. Am I missing something?”31

As for commercial stations, the majority had not yet converted to digital technology and barely half had started investigating new revenue opportunities (see Tables 3 and 4). Many of these stations saw little or no benefit from the digital conversion process, and did not particularly feel that digital technology would be important in the future management of the station (see Tables 6 and 7). This environmental uncertainty has created a situation in which economic changes will come slowly and tentatively. Thus, while commercial stations expressed a desire to explore new revenue opportunities, uncertainty has forced many stations to “play it safe,” and try to improve existing economic models in the short term.

Again, this has application to the Oliver model. Oliver wrote, “When the environmental context is highly unpredictable and uncertain, an organization will exert greater effort to reestablish the illusion of control and stability. Acquiescence, compromise and avoidance strategies will be most likely to occur.”32 Until commercial stations know more about digital implementation, many have taken the road of compromise, acquiescence and maintaining the economic status quo.

Qualitative data also supported this conclusion. An interview was conducted with Charles Collins, station manager at WLTZ television in Columbus, Georgia. WLTZ is a commercial station affiliated with the NBC network and owned by Lewis Broadcasting. On May 1, 2002 WLTZ became the first station in the Columbus market to convert to digital technology, with estimated conversion costs of one million dollars.

According to Mr. Collins, high conversion costs and continuing economic uncertainty have prevented the station from exploring alternative revenue possibilities. “We haven’t figured out how to recoup the costs yet, so we have to bite the bullet,” he said. “We don’t know what we’re doing, so we’ll convert as we go along. That means we’ll do what we’re doing now and simply convert the signal to digital.”33

Mr. Collins ruled out alternative revenue models such as multicasting. Even though the station has the capability of multicasting, he did not see it as a viable alternative. “We need time to figure out what’s going on,” he said. “We’re going the cheapest way possible for the time being.”34

Limitations and Future Relationship

The major weakness the study was the low response rate, which certainly makes general applicability more difficult. Every effort was made to improve response, which as previously mentioned, may have suffered from some unfortunate problems of timing.

It is also important to consider the economic time frame in which the study took place. The national economy showed consistent weakening throughout 2001, and when it showed signs of recovery, the terrorist attacks in September delivered another serious blow. “It will take [our station] many years to recover from September 11,” wrote one public station respondent. Thus, the results of this study could be considered only a “snapshot” of a particular moment within the evolving digital landscape. It is possible that changes in any of these factors could change the attitudes and responses of station executives regarding digital television.

The limitations of the study suggest the need for investigation over a longer period of time. A useful approach might be investigating station response during several distinct time periods. For example, response could be measured before the digital conversion, shortly after the conversion, and then a period of years after the conversion. This would allow the researcher to account for volatility in the environment, such as the economy or government activity. It could also measure how respondents’ attitudes and activities regarding digital television have changed over time. This would give the researcher a greater breadth of information regarding the actual impact of the digital conversion.

The results also suggest that perhaps future studies should concentrate more on the differences within each group of stations. The difference between stations, such as public, religious and commercial, are big enough as to make comparison difficult. It might be more useful to study the differentiation in each of these groups, such as responses between religious group stations and religious stand-alone stations.

Conclusions

The Oliver model seemed a good fit for this study, and suggested that different groups of stations will respond differently to the digital conversion process. Public stations had much more positive attitudes about digital conversion, which has led them to embrace the process much more quickly. Low-power and religious stations were the most likely targets of consolidation or getting out of the industry.

Given the response rate, it could be hard to extrapolate the results on to the general broadcasting population. This is ameliorated somewhat when response is viewed by market size. According to the FCC, there are approximately 4,074 television stations in the U.S. Using the Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook, these can be broken down into market size, with stations in markets one-50 considered “large,” stations in markets 51-150 considered “medium,” and stations in markets 151 and up considered “small.” By those definitions, the U.S. has approximately 1,255 large market stations, 1,347 medium market stations, and 1,472 small market stations. This corresponds roughly to 31% large market, 33% medium market and 36% small market.

These percentages are very similar to those of the stations involved in the study. Of the responding stations, 35% were from large markets, 32% from medium markets and 33% from small markets. This does not totally eliminate the problem of response rate, but it does suggest the response closely mirrors the general broadcasting population.

The data also pointed out a high level of uncertainty in the current television environment, which has created an interesting paradox for television broadcasters. They know that despite uncertainty, extreme industry pessimism and a poor national economy, their stations remain extremely valuable properties. This is reflected in the fact that only 2% of responding stations indicated plans to sell. According to Nat Ostroff of Sinclair Broadcasting, “Digital television is like an oceanfront lot. You know you’re going to build something very valuable on it, even if you don’t have the design ready.”35

The problem is, while most broadcasters still don’t have the design ready, they still believe that the digital conversion required them to ‘do something.’ Looking at all stations as to their planned response to digital conversion, less than 10 percent indicated that no change would be made (see Table 3).

The study also points to the fact that public stations are much farther along the digital curve than commercial, low-power and religious stations, which could be due to the unique organizational structure of public television. Historically, public stations have pioneered many broadcasting innovations, such as the use of satellite relays and “reverse compensation,” in which affiliates pay the national network for programming.36 In addition, public programming seems especially suited for digital splitting and multicasting over several channels. While other groups of stations wonder what to do with their extra digital spectrum space, public stations could easily create niche channels devoted to educational, instructional, cultural or children’s programming. Because of this capability, Smith, Wright and Ostroff write that public stations often have a “split personality.”37

Another issue might be funding and economics. Relying on government grants and private donations has always been difficult, but is even more so during difficult economic times when legislatures and individuals are less willing to contribute. While many commercial stations can afford to hold off and wait for economic direction, public stations may view the digital conversion as simply a matter of survival. Many of them face the same situation as Alabama Public Television. Judy Stone, executive director of Alabama PTV, figured that starting this fall the organization needs to receive $2.5 million dollars a year from the state legislature. “Failure,” she said, “is not an option.”38


About the Author:Brad Schultz is an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism at the University of Mississippis.

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