The FCC denied reconsideration on the last phase of the digital television transition – requiring that all LPTV stations and TV translators cease analog operations and be operating digitally by September 1, 2015. See our summary of the original ruling on the digital conversion of LPTV and TV translator stations here. In denying reconsideration, the FCC determined that the September 1, 2015 date will hold – denying requests that the final decision be postponed while the FCC considers the repacking of the television band as part of the incentive auction process to clear part of the TV spectrum for wireless broadband purposes. The FCC also noted that some parties wanted to keep operating in an analog mode on TV channel 6, as the audio can be received by FM receivers (so-called "Franken FMs"). The Commission determined that using Channel 6 to provide an audio service this was not a sufficient reason to keep analog operations on TV channels alive past the deadline that they have established. (See our articles about these hybrid LPTV/FM stations, which take advantage of the fact that Channel 6 is adjacent to the FM band and that analog TV used an FM audio system, here).
The Commission did note that, in response to some petitions for reconsideration, that any LPTV station or translator moving to Channel 6 for digital operations be required to protect noncommercial FM stations that would be operating on adjacent frequencies. While the Commission does not expect that such interference will occur frequently, they made clear that LPTV and TV translators are secondary services, and they cannot continue to operate if they cause interference to primary services, including primary noncommercial FM stations.
The remainder of the reconsideration denial dealt with issues that, for the most part, have already effectively been decided. The Commission denied reconsideration of the requirement that translators operating above channel 51 had to cease operations by the end of 2011. As that date has long passed, and virtually all stations did manage to clear the spectrum and find a new home elsewhere on the band, the outcome of that decision seemed to be pre-ordained.
The FCC also declined to change the obligation that new digital LPTV stations have their construction permits automatically extended until the September 1, 2015 digital transition date. The Commission stated that the 3 year term of a digital construction permit would remain unchanged, as such stations are not affected by any need to convert from analog to digital. However, the Commission did note that some new LPTV stations have been granted an extension of their permits on a case-by-case basis, based on uncertainties created by the potential repacking of the television band – an issue to look at for any CP holders with a permit for a new station nearing the end of its three year term.
All in all, the end of the remaining remnants of analog television appears to be near. In just under two years, all analog broadcasting will have to be digital – so operators of LPTV and TV translator stations should be accelerating their planning for that date that soon will be upon us.