Contrary to recent rumors, the FCC is not out of the television broadcasting business just yet. In a decision released on Wednesday, the FCC has decided to allocate a new low VHF Television station to the state of Delaware. Responding in part to comments submitted by Delaware Senator Edward E. Kaufman, and over the objections of a few incumbent television stations, the Commission has decided that the community of Seaford, Delaware, in the southern part of the state, needs a new TV station on Channel 5. Quoting the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, which directs that "It shall be the policy of the Federal Communications Commission to allocate channels for very high frequency commercial television broadcasting in a manner which ensures that not less than one such channel shall be allocated to each State, if technically feasible," the FCC decided to allocate Channel 5 at Seaford in order to provide Delaware with its only VHF commercial television channel allotment.
Among the issues raised in opposition were the potential for harmful interference to adjacent stations; consumer confusion if the new Channel 5 were designated as "Channel 5" for PSIP (or virtual channel number) purposes; and the fact that some have advocated reallocating Channels 5 and 6 for use by FM radio. The FCC concluded that none of these issues was an impediment to the new allocation and it proceeded to drop in the new Channel 5, assigning it Channel 36 as its PSIP channel (which confusingly is the actual over-the-air channel of WTTG(TV) Channel 5 in Washington, DC, which had raised the objection over the use of "Channel 5" as the new Delaware station’s virtual channel number.) Notably, the Commission dismissed out of hand the notion that it should avoid adopting new channel allotments or accepting applications on channels 5 and 6 because of the proposal to reallocate those channels to the FM radio service, stating that the FM radio proposal was still pending, that the Commission has not imposed a freeze on the use of these channels, and that the idea that the allocation of Channel 5 at Seaford would block any future radio service on Channel 5 is simply speculative. In addition, although the issue of reception problems associated with digital television stations on low VHF channels was raised by some of the commenters, the FCC’s decision fails to address the issue at all, simply saying that the allocation complies with its technical rules. Finally, the Commission noted that the addition of Channel 5 at Seaford is not mutually exclusive with proposed reallocation of Channel 2 from Jackson, Wyoming to Wilmington, Delaware, which was rejected by the Commission earlier this year. The proponent of that move has appealed the FCC’s denial to the Federal courts where it remains pending. Just how much interest there will be in an auction of a new low VHF channel in Seaford, Delaware remains to be seen, and the FCC will announce a window for interested parties to apply for the channel at some point in the future.