The FCC has issued another in a series of Notice of Proposed Rule Makings aimed at implementing changes to the satellite television rules brought about by the recently enacted Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010 or "STELA".  In particular, by its NPRM issued last week, the Commission proposes a predictive model to provide presumptive determinations as to whether a household is considered unserved by a local network-affiliated digital station.  The model proposed is a point-to-point predictive model that will allow parties to determine whether a particular location has the ability to receive an over-the-air digital television broadcast signal at the intensity level necessary for service.  The predictive model proposed by the Commission is based on the current model used for predicting reception of analog signals, which uses Longley-Rice to predict signal propagation. 

In proposing this predictive model, the Commission tentatively concludes that the current standard for an outdoor antenna should continue be used in predicting digital television signal strengths at individual locations.  Although STELA revised the definition of an "unserved" household by changing the previous statutory reference to a "conventional, stationary outdoor rooftop antenna" to refer simply to the use of an "antenna" (as we mentioned in our earlier blog), the Commission’s recent NPRM finds that the Act’s specification of the DTV standard incorporated in the FCC’s rules implies the use of an outdoor antenna to receive service.  Therefore, the predictive model the Commission proposes in its NPRM for determining reception of over-the-air digital television signals will continue to include the outdoor antenna standard (with some adjustments for height).  That said, and as the Commission itself notes, given that both of the satellite television providers are moving towards providing local-into-local service in most markets, the need for making determinations as to which households are "unserved" (and hence eligible to receive distant signals), is diminishing, although there are still a number of markets where such local-into-local service has yet to be implemented. 

Although STELA also narrowed the unserved standard to focus just on the reception of signals from an in-market affiliate (rather than simply any affiliate) and to address the notion of multicast digital streams, these changes do not impact the Commission’s adoption of a predictive model, and thus were not explicitly addressed by the NPRM.  However, the Commission does include a Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making to address issues regarding on-site measurements in the event that a subscriber requests an on-site signal strength test following application of the predictive model.  Here again, the Commission proposes to limit measurements to outdoor antennas.  Comments on the Commission’s proposed rule changes will be due 20 days after publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register, which, as of this writing, has not yet occurred. 


Continue Reading FCC Begins Proceedings to Implement Changes to Satellite Television Rules as a Result of STELA

Last week, we wrote about the FCC fining stations for a number of violations found at the studios of some broadcast stations.  In these same cases, the FCC also found a number of technical violations at the tower sites of some of the same stations.  Issues for which fines were issued included the failure to have an locked fence around an AM station’s tower, the failure of stations to be operating at the power for which they were authorized, and the failure to have a station’s Studio Transmitter Link operating on its licensed frequency.

An issue found in two case was the failure to operate at the power specified on the station’s license.  In one case, an AM station simply seemed to not be switching to its nighttime power – in other words, at sunset, it was not reducing power from the power authorized for its daytime operations.  The second case was one where another AM station was not switching to its nighttime antenna pattern after dark.  In that case, there were apparently issues with the nighttime antenna but, rather than request special temporary authority from the FCC to operate with reduced power until the problem was fixed, the FCC notes that the station apparently just kept operating with its daytime power.  An STA is not difficult to obtain when there is a technical issue (as the FCC does not want stations going dark if it can be avoided), and some effort is made to specify a power that avoids interference to other stations.  So, if faced with technical problems, request authority for operations that are different from those authorized by the station’s license until those problems can be fixed, or risk a fine from the Commission.


Continue Reading FCC Inspections – Transmission Site Fines for Overpower Operation, Unlocked Tower Fences, and Improper STL Operations

A day after the Obama transition team wrote to Congress suggesting that the DTV transition now scheduled for February 17 be delayed, there are indications that a bandwagon effect is beginning to develop in favor of such a delay.  Broadcasting and Cable magazine’s website reports that the four major TV networks have indicated that they support a delay in the transition if it will better serve their viewers, and that Senator Rockefeller has started drafting legislation to delay the transition.  The New York Times featured a guest editorial from two former FCC Chairmen – Republican Michael Powell and Democrat William Kennard – supporting the delay (and mentioning one of the same issues that we had mentioned the day before – the need for education of consumers about the need for different antennas to receive the digital signal).  But others are not so sure that a delay makes sense.

While the NY Times editorial may make it look like the delay request is a bipartisan effort, there are other indications that there is at least some evidence of partisan differences beginning to develop.  The NY Times today quotes Joe Barton, a senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as opposing a change.  Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the delay will confuse consumers, while Democratic Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein is quoted in the same article as being sympathetic to the postponement.  While the political groups are taking sides, many in industry seem reluctant to delay the transition date. 


Continue Reading More Evidence that a Digital Television Conversion Delay May Be On Its Way – But There is Opposition

In a recent decision, the FCC adopted new rules for AM station proofs of performance that make the process much simpler.  We wrote about this proposal when it was advanced, here.  The order adopted a week ago allows stations installing new series fed AM directional antennas to avoid the time-consuming and expensive process of