digital conversion of LPTV stations

While many of us were trying to enjoy the holidays, the world of regulation kept right on moving, seemingly never taking time off.  So we thought that we ought to highlight some of the actions taken by the FCC in the last couple weeks and to also remind you of some of the upcoming January regulatory deadlines.

Before Christmas, we highlighted some of the regulatory dates for January – including the Quarterly Issues Programs Lists due to be placed in the online public file of all full-power stations by January 10.  Also on the list of dates in our post on January deadlines are the minimum SoundExchange fees due in January for most radio stations and other webcasters streaming programming on the Internet.  January also brings the deadline for Biennial Ownership Reports (postponed from their normal November 1 filing deadline).

In that summary of January regulatory dates, we had mentioned that the initial filing of the new Annual Children’s Television Programming Report would be due this month.  But, over the holiday week, the FCC extended that filing deadline for that report until March 30 to give broadcasters time to familiarize themselves with the new forms.  The FCC will be doing a webinar on the new form on January 23.  In addition, the FCC announced that many of the other changes in the children’s television rules that were awaiting review under the Paperwork Reduction Act had been approved and are now effective.  See our article here for more details.
Continue Reading While You Were on Vacation….Looking at FCC Regulatory Actions over the Holidays and Deadlines for January

The FCC last week released a Public Notice describing the process for the filing of applications for replacement channels for LPTV stations and TV translators that are displaced by the incentive auction.  As the repacking of the TV band following the incentive auction will require LPTV and TV translator stations now operating on channels above 37 to move to a new channel below that channel, and as others will be displaced by full-power stations being moved from high channels to channels below 37 (or simply being rearranged on their channels to make room for some of the stations being repacked into the smaller TV band), this displacement window will be necessary for these LPTV/TV translator stations to continue to operate. The Public Notice sets out that the FCC will open a displacement window after full-power stations that were repacked as a result of the incentive auction have had their own windows when they can request alternative channels or increased facilities, as set out in the FCC’s auction Closing Notice (see that notice here).  The FCC estimates that the LPTV/TV Translator window will likely be announced 7 or 8 months after last month’s Closing Notice in the auction – meaning that it is likely to be announced at the end of this year.  As the announcement of the window will give LPTV and translator stations 60 days to prepare applications, and the window itself will last 30 days, it looks like we are looking at displacement applications being due late in the first quarter of 2018.

In addition to displaced LPTV stations and displaced TV translators, full-power TV stations that lost coverage areas because of the repacking will be able to file in this displacement window for a new class of translators.  In fact, these new translators will receive a preference over displacement applications for LPTV stations and TV translators if both happen to file for the same channel.  The FCC will, however, provide mutually exclusive applicants filed during the window an opportunity to move to a different channel to resolve any conflict.
Continue Reading FCC Details Window for LPTV Stations and TV Translators Displaced by the Incentive Auction to Seek New Channels

While we are in the Holiday season, the regulatory obligations faced by broadcasters don’t stop.  December brings a continuation of the TV renewal cycle, though we are nearing the end of that cycle.  Renewal applications for all TV, Class A and LPTV stations in the following states are due on December 1: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  These stations need to file their first two post-filing license renewal announcements on the first and 16th of the month.  Stations that filed their license renewal applications in October also will be broadcasting their post-filing announcements on those same days (their last two announcements).  Those would be stations in the following states and territories: Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, American Samoa, Guam, the Mariana Islands, and Saipan.  TV stations in the states that file license renewals on February 1 (those in New York and New Jersey) have to start running their pre-filing announcements on the December 1 (and run a second on December 16).

There are other routine filings due in December.  On December 1, Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations and AM and FM Radio Stations with employment units with 5 or more full-time employees in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont all need to complete their EEO Public File Report and place that report in their public file (and on their websites, if they have one).  Noncommercial stations still have obligations to file Biennial Ownership Reports on every other anniversary of the filing of their license renewal applications.  That means that these reports are due on December 1 for Noncommercial Television Stations in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont; and on the same day for Noncommercial AM and FM Radio Stations in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Continue Reading December Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Renewals, EEO Reports and Noncommercial Biennial Ownership Reports in Some States; TV Ancillary and Supplementary Revenue Reports; As Well as LPTV Rulemaking Comments and Many Other Expected Actions

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.


Continue Reading No Relief on LPTV/TV Translator Digital Conversion Deadline – 2015 Deadline for End of Analog Operations Upheld on Reconsideration

The deadlines for the digital conversion of LPTV stations, TV translators and Class A TV stations were announced on Friday, in an Order where the FCC also provided some indication of their expected timetable for the reclamation of some of the television spectrum for broadband use – and that expectation is nowhere near as aggressive as originally announced two years ago in the FCC’s Broadband Report. The digital conversion of LPTV and translator stations will happen by September 1, 2015.  The FCC also ordered an earlier December 31, 2011 deadline for the digital conversion and clearing of the reclaimed spectrum by those stations still operating in parts of the  former television band (Channels 52 through 69) that have already been reclaimed and mostly auctioned for wireless uses. The digital conversion of Class A stations and other operational issues were also discussed in the order.  The details of the order may also reveal the Commission’s thinking on the proposed reclamation of other portions of the TV spectrum for broadband use, and of the use of Channels 5 and 6 for radio.  Details on the deadlines and other actions by the FCC in this order are set out below. 

Conversion Deadline and Process for Stations in Core TV Band

LPTV, translator and Class A stations (referred to in the rest of this article simply as "LPTV stations" except with respect to the specific Class A rules discussed below) will have a hard deadline for digital conversion of September 1, 2015.  As of that date, all analog television operations in the US will cease.  If LPTV stations do not already have a construction permit authorizing digital operations, they must file for such a permit by May 1, 2015. All existing construction permits for a digital flash-cut on the LPTV station’s current channel are automatically extended by this Order until the September 15, 2015 deadline. This does not extend outstanding construction permits for digital companion channels. Extensions of those permits must be requested by the permittee. 


Continue Reading FCC Sets Deadlines for LPTV, TV Translator and Class A Stations To Convert to Digital – And Gives Hints When Television Spectrum May Be Reclaimed for Broadband