Following the digital transition, issues with the reception of some television stations have highlighted the need for the use of outdoor antennas to receive the digital signal.  Last week, in three FCC decisions, the Commission made clear that its Over-the-Air Reception Device rules (the "OTARD rules") prohibit most zoning and other land-use restrictions, both governmental and private, on the use of such antennas.  These rules were adopted as a result of Congressional actions, and prohibit many restrictions on the installation and use of antennas used to receive television and other video signals either on private property owned by the user of the antenna or on property leased by the user.  Stations should become familiar with these rules, and let their viewers know of the rules, so that they can use them if they have problems installing antennas to receive the new digital signals over the air.

The rules apply to antennas that are one meter or less in diameter, or any size in Alaska, and are designed to receive or transmit direct broadcast satellite services, or one meter or less in diagonal measurement and are designed to receive or transmit video programming services through multipoint distribution services, including multichannel multipoint distribution services, instructional television fixed services, and local multipoint distribution services; and antennas designed to receive television broadcast signals.  For the Rule to apply, the antenna must be installed on property within the exclusive use or control of the antenna user where the user has a direct or indirect ownership or leasehold interest in the property upon which the antenna is located. Continue Reading FCC’s OTARD Rules – Limiting Zoning and Land Use Restrictions on Outdoor TV Antennas

On Monday, the President signed into law a bill adjusting the reimbursement dates of the Low Power Television grant program by which LPTV and TV translator stations can seek a $1,000 grant in order to ensure that they are able to continue to receive and rebroadcast the signals of primary full-power television stations once the full-power stations complete the transition to digital television.   In late 2007, the government announced the start of the LPTV Digital-to-Analog grant program designed to help translators and low power television stations continue their analog broadcasts after the February 17, 2009 conversion of full-power television stations to DTV.  Specifically, the LPTV Digital-to-Analog Conversion grant program will provide funds to eligible translators and LPTV stations that need to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box in order to convert the incoming signal of a full-power DTV station to analog format for retransmission on the analog LPTV station.  The program has been funded with a total of $8 million, which is available in $1,000 grants to eligible LPTV stations.  As a result of the recent change, funds granted through the LPTV Digital-to-Analog grant program will available beginning in fiscal year 2009 (Oct. 1, 2008 – Sept. 30, 2009), rather than in fiscal year 2011.  In addition, the recent bill also extends the availability of funding through fiscal year 2012.

Any low-power television broadcast station, Class A television station, television translator station, or television booster station that meets the following three criteria may apply for the grant to defray the cost of the digital-to-analog converter box:

  1. It is itself broadcasting exclusively in analog format;
  2. It has not purchased a digital-to-analog conversion device prior to February 8, 2006; and
  3. It is (or will be) re-transmitting the off-air digital signal of a full-power DTV station.

Applications for this grant program are being accepted until February 17, 2009.  Priority compensation will be given to eligible LPTV stations licensed to 501(c) non-profit entities or LPTV stations serving a rural area of fewer than 10,000 viewers.  Thus, priority is given to stations owned by translator associations and others that might not otherwise be able to afford the costs of converting the signals that they receive from analog to digital, and which might, without the grants, go off the air.  More information on how to apply for such grants is available on the NTIA’s website here.    Continue Reading Dates for Reimbursement Under the LPTV Digital-to-Analog Grant Program Revised