Low Power Television/Class A TV

Last week, the FCC’s Media Bureau granted waivers of the requirement that television tuners be capable of receiving both analog and digital television transmissions, but only with respect to tuners meant for mobile use.  The FCC justified the waivers of the All Channel Receiver Act given the technological constraints that an analog reception chip would put on mobile receivers meant for the reception of the Mobile/Handheld Digital Television Standard (A/153) signals.  This signal is being tested now to allow television broadcasters to provide mobile programming in addition to their current over-the-air broadcast signals – a service planned for commercial roll out at the end of the year.  These waivers, granted in response to requests by Dell and LG Electronics, not only signal the seriousness with which this new service is being regarded, but also provide evidence of the coming end of analog television, now used solely by LPTV stations.   

In considering the waiver, the Commission recognized that the only television stations that would be affected by the lack of an analog tuner were LPTV stations, and no such stations opposed the waiver request.  As one of the waiver proponents noted, analog television signals were not meant for mobile reception, and thus the lack of such a receiver in a mobile device was no big loss.  Moreover, the FCC noted that the digital conversion of LPTV stations has already begun, in that it no longer accepts applications for new analog LPTV stations.  The Commission reiterated that it will soon set a date for the final conversion of the last analog LPTV stations to digital.  Thus, the failure to receive analog would be, at most, a temporary issue.

Continue Reading FCC Authorizes Mobile DTV Receivers Without Analog Tuners – Further Signals of the End of Analog LPTV, and Raises Questions of Recapture of TV Spectrum for Broadband

As we anticipated, the FCC has suspended indefinitely the opportunity to apply for new, digital low power television (LPTV) stations in non-rural areas, which had been slated to begin on July 26, 2010.  Given the FCC’s new focus on repacking and reallocating the television spectrum for use by broadband competitors, the Commission’s postponement of the

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. 

Continue Reading Commissioner Clyburn Suggests TV Channels 5 and 6 Could Be Used For Radio – Will It Happen?

Last week, the FCC issued fines to Class A TV stations which seem to have forgotten the requirements for such stations. Class A TV stations were low power television stations on which, early in the decade, Congress decided to confer "protected" status, meaning that they could not be knocked off the air by a new full-power TV station or by a change in the facilities of a full-power station.  LPTV stations, by contrast, are "secondary services," meaning that they can be knocked off the air by changes in primary stations.  Class A stations were given this protection if they could show that they were providing local programming, had a local studio, and otherwise complied with all the operating requirements that a full-power station station has to meet – including a manned main studio, children’s television obligations, EEO reporting, and public file requirements.  Cases released last week remind these stations that they must still meet all requirements for full power stations, as the FCC fined Class A stations for main studio, public file and children’s television violations.

In one case, the FCC fined a station $1000 for violations of the main studio, main studio staffing and public file rules.  The fine was originally set at $24,000 but, as the licensee demonstrated that it had no ability to pay the higher fine, the penalty was reduced to $1000.  The FCC had tried to inspect the station, and was unable to obtain access to the transmitter site.  The Commission staff then tried to find the station’s main studio, and found that no one answered the phone number listed for the station, there did not appear to be anyone at the address on file for the main studio location, and there was of course no access to the public file.  As Commission rules require that stations have main studios in their principal service areas that are manned during normal business hours, and that stations have their public file at this location, the fine was issued.

Continue Reading Class A TV Stations Need to Remember They Are Subject to Full-Power Rules – Fines for Kids TV and Main Studio Violations

The FCC today issued a further Public Notice reminding all Video Programming Distributors (VPDs)— including those who might otherwise be exempt from some elements of the closed captioning rules — to register their contact information with the FCC.  All VPDs, including television stations, should have already identified appropriate contact people within their organizations and filed their contact information

The FCC today issued a Public Notice  instructing applicants for new analog low power TV (LPTV) stations to amend their pending short-form applications by May 24th in order to specify digital operations. If the short-form application is not amended by May 24th it will be dismissed.  As some of you may recall, way back in 2000 the FCC opened a window for the filing of new LPTV stations. Rather than full applications, at the time applicants were simply required to file a "short form" tech-box application specifying the basic parameters of the proposal.  And of course, at the time the proposals were all for new analog LPTV facilities. Over the years, many of these proposals were found to be non-mutually exclusive, and the applicant applied for and received construction permits for new LPTV stations.  Other proposals were conflicted and were included in an FCC Auction to resolve the conflict, which also resulted in the grant of new construction permits. Many others, however, remained mutually exclusive and deadlocked. The FCC has now decided that, as it will no longer grant any new analog LPTV stations, any remaining proposals that are still pending must be amended to specify digital operations. 

Today’s action is consistent with the Commission’s pronouncement made last Summer when it announced the opportunity to commence filings for new LPTV stations in rural areas (which we wrote about here).  At that time, the FCC stated that going forward it would grant only digital LPTV stations and not any new analog LPTVs.  It’s unclear why today’s Public Notice was not released last year once that decision was made, but in any event today’s action would appear to be one more step towards the ultimate transition of all LPTV stations to digital operations, which was mentioned as part of last week’s National Broadband Plan (which we discussed here).  While the Commission has not yet set a date for the transition of existing analog LPTV stations to digital, the Broadband Plan suggested accelerating that process to migrate all broadcast television to digital operations.  However, the Plan also suggested potentially repacking the television spectrum, encouraging the consolidation of television operations, and changing interference protections for teleivsion stations, so whether the Commission would move forward with requiring analog LPTV stations to convert to DTV without clarifying some of these new proposals and their impact on low power television stations is unclear.  One other observation:  with the potential conversion to digital operations looming, the days of analog LPTV stations operating on TV Channel 6 and broadcasting audio intended to be received by FM radios would appear to be numbered. 

Continue Reading Pending Short-Form Applications for New Analog LPTVs Must Be Amended to Specify Digital Operations by May 24th

Just a reminder that all Video Programming Distributors — which includes broadcast television stations —  must identify a contact person for closed captioning issues, both immediate issues and general complaints, and file that contact information with the FCC by March 22, 2010.  As we’ve discussed previously, new FCC closed captioning rules recently went into effect

Another year is upon us, and it’s time for predictions as to what Washington may have in store for broadcasters in 2010.  Each year, when we look at what might be coming, we are amazed at the number of issues that could affect the industry – often issues that are the same year to year as final decisions are often hard to come by in Washington with the interplay between the FCC and other government agencies, the courts and Congress. This year, as usual, we see a whole list of issues, many of which remain from prior years. But this year is different, as we have had a list topped by issues such as the suggestion that television spectrum be reallotted for wireless uses and the radio performance royalty, that could fundamentally affect the broadcast business.  The new administration at the FCC is only beginning to get down to business, having filling most of the decision-making positions at the Commission.  Thus far, its attention has been focused on broadband, working diligently to complete a report to Congress on plans for implementation of a national broadband plan, a report that is required to be issued in February.  But, from what little we have seen from the new Commission and its employees, there seems to be a willingness to reexamine many of the fundamental tenants of broadcasting.  And Congress is not shy about offering its own opinions on how to make broadcasting "better."  This willingness to reexamine some of the most fundamental tenets of broadcasting should make this a most interesting, and potentially frightening, year. Some of the issues to likely be facing television, radio and the broadcasting industry generally are set out below.

Television Issues.

In the television world, at this time last year, we were discussing the end of the digital television transition, and expressing the concern of broadcasters about the FCC’s White Spaces decision allowing unlicensed wireless devices into the television spectrum. While the White Spaces process still has not been finalized, that concern over the encroachment on the TV spectrum has taken a back seat to a far more fundamental issue of whether to repurpose large chunks of the television spectrum (if not the entire spectrum) for wireless users, while compressing television into an even smaller part of what’s left of the television band – if not migrating it altogether to multichannel providers like cable or satellite, with subscription fees for the poorest citizens being paid for from spectrum auction receipts. This proposal, while floated for years in academic circles, has in the last three months become one that is being legitimately debated in Washington, and one that television broadcasters have to take seriously, no matter how absurd it may seem at first glance. Who would have thought that just six month after the completion of the digital transition, when so much time and effort was expended to make sure that homes that receive free over-the-air television would not be adversely impacted by the digital transition, we could now be talking about abolishing free over-the-air television entirely? This cannot happen overnight, and it is a process sure to be resisted as broadcasters seek to protect their ability to roll out new digital multicast channels and their mobile platforms. But it is a real proposal which, if implemented, could fundamentally change the face of the television industry.  Watch for this debate to continue this year.

Continue Reading Looking Into the Crystal Ball – What Can Broadcasters Expect from Washington in 2010?

This afternoon the FCC announced that it would postpone the opportunity to apply for new digital low power television stations until July 26, 2010. The Commission had begun accepting applications for new digital LPTV stations in so-called rural areas beginning in late August, and had previously announced that it intended to expand the first-come, first-served

The FCC has wasted no time in pressing ahead with the discussion of whether the spectrum currently used by local broadcast television stations is being put to the greatest use and whether it should be "re-purposed" for the so-called broadband effort.  This afternoon, the FCC issued a Public Notice soliciting comments by December 21st