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
This week, the FCC announced that it will begin accepting applications for new digital-only LPTV and translator stations in rural areas as of August 25, 2009. Beginning on that date, the FCC will also begin to accept applications for major changes to existing analog and digital LPTV and TV translators in rural areas, and applications for digital companion channels (DCCs) for existing analog stations in rural areas. By "rural areas", the FCC means stations that specify a transmitter site that is located more than 75 miles away from the reference coordinates of the 100 U.S. cities listed in the FCC’s Public Notice. Applications for new analog facilities will not be accepted. This filing opportunity will be on a first-come, first-served processing basis, and mutually exclusive proposals will be resolved by auction. A copy of the FCC’s Public Notice is available here.
While this window is for new stations, major changes, and DCCs in rural areas, prior to that date all existing LPTV, TV translator, and Class A television stations may wish to review their present options for converting to DTV. The Commission’s Public Notice reminds existing stations that they may file an application for on-channel digital conversion (i.e. flash-cut) at any time. In order to retain processing priority, existing stations are encouraged to file flash-cut applications prior to August 25th, and certainly by January 25, 2010, at which point the FCC will open the door for new digital licensing opportunities on a nationwide first-come, first-served, as discussed below.
Last month, the FCC released a Public Notice requesting further comments on the proposal to increase the power of HD radio operations. We have written about that proceeding a number of times, including posts here and here. The increased power for the digital radio signals has been sought by many broadcasters who believe that current HD radio power levels do not produce strong enough digital signals to penetrate buildings and fully serve radio markets. On the other hand, other broadcasters fear that the increased power for the digital signals will create interference to existing analog stations operating on adjacent channels. Today, the FCC set the dates for the filing of these additional comments – comments are due on July 6, with replies due on July 17.
While comments have already been filed on the proposal to increase digital power, the FCC has raised a number of specific issues on which it wants comments, especially in light of the studies sponsored by NPR in cooperation with a number of other broadcasters, which seek to do a comprehensive review of the interference potential of higher powered digital operations. NPR is shooting to have that report to the FCC in September. The specific questions raised in the new FCC notice are:
- Whether the FCC should wait to decide on the power increase proposal until after the NPR study is done
- Whether current operations by radio stations operating in HD, and the various tests that have already been run, demonstrate the need for higher power operation on a permanent or provisional basis
- Whether new standards of interference to adjacent channel stations should be adopted, and if the interference should also protect LPFM stations
- Whether there should be specific procedures adopted to resolve any interference issues that do arise.
This week ,the FCC issued a Public Notice addressing the issue of LPTV stations eager to displace to a new channel or switch to digital operations following the transition of full powers to DTV. (Please note, this notice does not address the filing of applications for brand new LPTV stations, which are still frozen). Many…
Last week, the FCC introduced a new service to fill in gaps in the service of a digital television station – permitting television stations to immediately apply for Special Temporary Authority to construct digital translators. Translators rebroadcast the signal of a full-power station, but operate on a channel different than the main station they retransmit. The Commission has already authorized stations to operate on-channel low-power facilities in the Distributed Transmission Service (DTS) proceeding, about which we wrote here. The digital translators, however, will only be authorized to serve areas that had received analog service from the television station but which will lose that service when the station goes fully digital, thus raising questions as to how much use these stations will really be. In a Public Notice released today, providing filing information for these translators, the Commission states that the translators can only serve this loss area. While the authorization of this Digital Low Power Television Translator service will begin immediately on an STA basis, the Commission’s order came out only in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which could ultimately be rejected by the Commission after public comments are submitted.
The Commission seeks comments on a number of proposals made in this proceeding, including the following:
- The new translators would operate on Channels 2-59, with those operations on channels 53-59 being authorized only where the applicant can show that there is no other channel on which a translator can operate
- These translators will be given application priority over all other translator applications except those for the displacement of an existing translator or LPTV station, which would have co-equal priority
- The translators would be authorized as part of the main station license, would be renewed as part of the main station license, and could not be sold except with the main station.
- The translators will be authorized to fill in the area served by an analog full-power station but lost when the station converts to digital. The Commission seeks comments as to whether even a nominal extension of the coverage area will be permitted (it apparently will not for authorizations initially granted through an STA)
- Applicants receiving an authorization for this service will be given a construction permit – and the Commission asks if that permit should be limited to a period of six months so that service to the public will be initiated quickly.
- The Commission also asks how this service should interact with white spaces devices recently authorized by the Commission (see our summary).
Yesterday, the FCC released its further Public Notice announcing that the freeze on filing certain Class A LPTV applications will be lifted on August 4th. Previously, Class A stations had been frozen from expanding their authorized contours and from changing channels (displacing) while the DTV transition was underway. Because Class A stations receive protection as…
Just over a week ago, the FCC decided to freeze the dismissal of FM translator applications of applicants who had more than 10 applications still pending at the FCC. As we have written, the FCC had ordered all applicants in the 2003 FM Translator filing window to dismiss all but 10 of their remaining…
In November, the FCC adopted an Order limiting to 10 the number of FM translators from the 2003 translator filing window that a single applicant could pursue. This Order was adopted by the Commission at the urging of LPFM advocates who believed that the large number of FM translator applications filed in 2003 foreclosed some opportunities for new low power FM stations (see our description of the Order here). Last week, the FCC released a Public Notice telling translator applicants to choose which 10 applications that they will continue to prosecute. Applicants have until April 3 to make that choice and notify the Commission of their choice. If no choice is made by that date, the FCC will continue to process the first 10 applications that were on file, dismissing any remaining applications by that applicant.
The Commission is expecting to then continue to process the remaining applications, opening a settlement window after the dismissal process is complete so that the remaining applicants can sort out possible engineering solutions or other settlements that would resolve conflicts between remaining mutually exclusive applications. However, there are a number of Petitions for Reconsideration that were filed against the Order establishing the 10 application limit (including one filed by our firm on behalf of a number of clients). We’ll see if the Commission takes any action on the Reconsideration petitions (and an accompanying Petition for Stay of the selection deadline) or if the Commission marches on and continues to process these applications. For now, applicants should be ready to make their selections on or before April 3.
Federal Register publication of the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Low Power FM (LPFM) stations and their relationship to FM translators and upgrades of full-power FM stations occurred today. This sets the comment dates in that proceeding – with comments due April 7, and replies on April 21. This proceeding looks at…
In recent weeks, Low Power Television stations have been the center of attention in Washington in connection with the Digital television transition. While all full-power television stations are set to convert to digital operations less than a year from now, ceasing analog operations at the end of the day on February 17, 2009, there is no specific deadline for LPTV stations to convert to digital. As the NTIA rolls out its coupon program for the purchase of converter boxes that will take digital signals of over-the-air television stations and convert them to analog for those who do not have digital television receivers (see our summary here), LPTV advocates noted that many converters do not pass through analog signals. Thus, once a television is hooked up to a converter box, that television will not be able to pick up stations broadcasting in analog – so many unconverted LPTV stations after the conversion date will be denied access to television receivers.
Suggestions have been made that the converter boxes be reconfigured to pass through analog – unlikely as many of the boxes have already been manufactured and are on their way to stores (note that some converters do pass through analog signals, but a consumer needs to look for those boxes). LPTV advocates have also asked for some form of cable must-carry during the transition process – a proposal sure to be opposed by cable system operators.