The Commission’s recent Order establishing the rules and time line for low power television stations to convert to DTV has now been published in the Federal Register, meaning that most of the new rules regarding the conversion of low power television stations to digital television are now in effect. As we wrote about extensively here,on July
The Commission’s recent Notice of Proposed Rule Making proposing a framework and time line for the transition of Low Power Television stations to digital operations — which we wrote about last month here — was published in the Federal Register today setting December 17, 2010 as the deadline for Comments and January 18, 2011 as…
In a recent speech before the Community Radio Conference, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn suggested that the proposal to reallocate Channels 5 and 6 for FM radio use had merit and should be considered further. That proposal is already before the FCC, and ripe for decision – so it could theoretically be adopted tomorrow. However, the proposal is not backed by all. While Commissioner Clyburn may think that the idea bears more exploration, there seems to be significantly more consideration that is necessary before a decision on the pending proposals can be made. What are these proposals, and what is standing in the way of a reallocation?
As we have written before, the proposals have been made to take TV Channels 5 and 6, which are immediately adjacent to the FM band, and reallocate them to radio broadcasting. The pending proposals include suggestions that LPFM stations could be located on the new FM channels that could be created, that new space for noncommercial radio operations could be created and, if they operated digitally, there would even be room to move the entire AM band to Channel 5. While some have suggested that any relief from such a transition would be long in coming, as radios would need to be manufactured, in fact that process might not be as prolonged as suggested, as the frequencies used by these television channels are already used for FM radio in Asia. Radios already exist that could pick up these channels (at least for analog reception). However, television interests have opposed this reallotment, but it may well be the broadband plan which could have the greatest impact on the consideration of this issue.
On Tuesday, the FCC released a public notice reminding stations of their obligation to provide a consumer referral telephone number to the FCC and to publicize that number so that viewers will have a local number to call for specific information about the station’s transition to DTV.
In addition, the FCC also reminded stations that they…
Further information from the FCC regarding the DTV transition, this time dealing with call signs. The FCC has announced that following the DTV transition, full power television stations may either keep their current call signs (i.e. WXYZ or WXYZ-TV) or they may formally change to use "-DT" instead, as in "WXYZ-DT".
The FCC yesterday issued a brief Order clarifying that stations that are flash-cutting to digital on their analog channel, or are otherwise commencing digital service on another channel as part of the transition, have the flexibility to do so at any time on June 12th without further authorization from the FCC.
[Please note, this information
On Friday, the FCC released its further Report and Order addressing the termination of analog service between now and June 12th, and revising the current DTV Consumer Education Requirements. Despite the apparent success of the February 17th turn-off of approximately one-third of the analog television stations in the country, the FCC has now ratcheted up the DTV Consumer Education requirements at the eleventh hour. The FCC has expanded and revised its rules significantly, so stations should review the Commission’s Order carefully and adjust their efforts and the content of their spots, crawls, etc., as necessary. These new requirements will go into effect starting April 1st. The full copy of the FCC’s Order is available here, and a summary of the new DTV education requirements is as follows:
First, in one of the few moves to reduce the burden on stations, the FCC has eliminated the requirement for most stations to continue broadcasting DTV transition educational information after they have terminated analog service and are operating in digital only. Thus, stations that have completed construction of their full-authorized, post-transition digital facilities and are operating exclusively in DTV do not need to continue with the general DTV Consumer Education announcements.
Second, for those stations that have not yet terminated analog, the FCC has expanded the DTV Education requirements in order, in the FCC’s words: “to ensure that consumers will receive the information they need to make proper preparations for the digital transition of the stations on which they rely for television service.” Specifically, beginning April 1, 2009, the stations must comply with the following rules:
1. Loss Area Notices– If the FCC’s Signal Loss Report — available here — predicts that 2 percent or more of the population in a station’s Grade B analog service contour will not receive the station’s digital signal, then the station must air service loss notices to inform viewers of exactly where (i.e. which communities or what sections of the market) an analog signal is received today, but won’t receive a digital signal after the transition. These notices are in addition to the existing consumer education requirements. The FCC estimates that there are 213 stations still operating in analog that will lose more than 2 percent of the current population when they switch to digital-only. Thus, stations should review the FCC’s Signal Loss Reports and determine how best to convey information about "loss areas" (if any) to their viewers. For stations needing to air information about loss areas, the notices must be no shorter than 30 seconds and must be aired at least once per day between 8 AM and 11:35 PM. These spots are in addition to other on-air informational requirements.
2. Antenna Information– All stations must include information about the use of antennas as part of their consumer education campaign, including information concerning a station’s change from the VHF to UHF bands, and the need for additional or different equipment to avoid loss of service. Antenna info can be included in existing DTV consumer education efforts, such as in news programs and longer format pieces. Information must be provided at least once per day, in a message lasting at least 15 seconds, with at least three of those messages a week airing during prime time.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the FCC has suspended the re-start of the 100-day DTV Countdown Clock, which was to begin tomorrow. In the FCC’s own words:
"We find that it could be confusing for viewers to see a 100-day countdown beginning on March 4, only to see a different clock in the event that we revise the
With February 17 only two days away – when all television stations had planned to be terminating their analog service until Congress passed the extension of the conversion deadline until June 12 – many stations are still planning to convert to fully digital operations on that date. In the last few days, we have seen a flurry of FCC orders about the conversion – including one issued late Friday night modifying requirements that had previously been announced, including the requirement that stations providing analog nightlight service provide emergency information in Spanish. As stations complained that they did not have the ability to translate their emergency information into Spanish, the FCC dropped the requirement (though still requiring information about the DTV transition to be broadcast in English and Spanish, probably assuming that Spanish-language PSAs providing the necessary information can be obtained from the NAB or other broadcast groups). That order also officially extended all digital construction permits that would have otherwise expired on February 17, and extended the conditions that are on many of the permits prohibiting digital operations on their final digital channels until the new transition deadline – unless these stations get explicit permission from the FCC to transition early by showing that they will not cause any interference to other stations when they operate on their new digital channels.
The Commission also has been publishing lists of the stations that had intended to go all-digital by February 17 despite the extension. First, the Commission released a Public Notice of all stations that had initially indicated that they would go silent, with a market-by-market analysis of which stations would go all-digital on February 17 (marked in red) and which would continue in analog. After analyzing that list, the Commission issued another Public Notice, with a list of stations that could not go all-digital without submitting certifications that they would meet certain consumer education requirements after the transition – including having at least one commercial station in a market continuing to broadcast a nightlight service that not only included information about the digital transition, but also news and emergency information, for at least 60 days. the certifications also required having a local call center for those who have questions about the transition, having a walk-in center where people can come for assistance with their digital converters, and otherwise taking steps to publicize the transition. Stations either needed to make these certifications, provide another public interest reason why they had to terminate analog operations on February 17, or agree to continue their analog operations.
The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Digital Fill-In Translators, to provide television service in areas where a television station’s digital signal does not reach locations that were covered by its analog operations (a proposal we summarized here) was published in the Federal Register today, setting comment dates on this proposal. Comments are due on January 12, and Replies on January 22. As the Commission has already published instructions for filing for temporary authority to operate these stations, broadcasters who are interested in the final rules that may be adopted should look to file comments on these matters before the January 12 deadline. This is another proceeding that is being rushed through the Commission in anticipation of the February 17 end of the digital television transition.
The analog nightlight proceeding is on an even faster track, with comments due on Monday (see our summary of that proceeding here). The Commission has just released a tentative agenda for its January 15 meeting, where the only item it will consider (other than reports from the Commission’s various Bureau Chiefs) will be the analog nightlight proposal. This is likely to be Chairman Martin’s last meeting as chair of the FCC. In light of the Congressional mandate to complete this proceeding by January 15, the Commission will have received comments and replies and digested them into a decision – all in the space of 20 days from the release of its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – with the Christmas and New Years holidays intervening! If anything, this shows two things – that the FCC can move rapidly if it has to, and that the DTV transition is the one and only real priority on the full Commission’s agenda right now.