LPTV channel 6 operations

A controversy has bubbled up in connection with the FCC proceeding to set the date by which Low Power Television stations will be required to convert to digital operations.  While the analog operations of full-power TV stations were mandatorily terminated in 2009, Low Power television stations and TV translators have not yet faced any end date for their analog operations – though the FCC recently suggested that the final date for analog broadcasting by these stations be set – perhaps as soon as next year.  In comments filed in the proceeding to set the end date, the question of when to terminate analog broadcasting became tangled in another issue – whether Channel 6 LPTV stations should be allowed to continue to be used to broadcast FM programming.  NPR suggested that the practice be terminated now, while Channel 6 licensees argued that this use was perfectly permissible under FCC rules, and that it provides a public interest benefit that should be preserved.

Channel 6 is immediately adjacent to the FM band.  Analog television stations used an audio transmission standard that was very similar to that used by FM stations, and the audio from analog Channel 6 stations could be picked up by FM radio receivers. In many major television markets across the country, LPTV operators have taken their stations, optimized the audio for FM reception, and started broadcasts intended to be treated like radio stations – programming music or talk like a radio station, with the video programming being secondary to the audio output.  Some have called these "Franken FMs", and many listeners don’t even realize that they are listening to a station licensed for video operation – just assuming that radio on 87.7 or 87.9 is a normal extension of the FM band.  But this proceeding to end analog television broadcasting has brought the issue to the forefront.


Continue Reading The Battle Over TV Channel 6 and LPTVs Used for FM Radio Broadcasts

The FCC today announced that, effective October 27, noncommercial FM stations need no longer protect Channel 6 analog television channels.  The lower end of the FM band, which is reserved for noncommercial educational FM broadcasting, is immediately adjacent to TV Channel 6.  As most television stations abandoned Channel 6 in June when the digital television

With the end of the DTV transition, the future use of TV channels 5 and 6, about which we have written before, is now back before the Commission in connection with an FCC filing by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, whose "radio rescue petition" was recently placed on a public notice opening a 30 day public comment period.   The FCC already has before it comments filed in its Diversity proceeding suggesting that these channels be reallocated for radio use, as Channel 6 is immediately adjacent to the lower end of the FM band, and the sound from many analog channel 6 TV stations could be heard on FM receivers.  While this petition has been opposed by certain TV interests, it is interesting to note that many television operators have been acknowledging that VHF channels, which had been the preferred channels for analog operations, may not be as advantageous for digital use, especially in urban areas, and may be particularly problematic for use with mobile digital television systems which are about to be introduced.

 In an analog world, VHF channels (those between 2 and 13) were prized by broadcasters, as stations operating on those channels could operate at power levels significantly lower than UHF stations (saving electricity costs), and still cover greater areas.  Many broadcasters thought that these benefits, particularly the lower power costs, would carry over into the digital world, and opted to remain on VHF channels for their digital operations – in some case abandoning the UHF temporary transition channel on which they were operating digitally during the period when they were running both a digital and an analog station before the end of the transition, to return to their VHF channel for their final digital operation.  Right after the digital transition was complete and these stations had moved back to their old VHF channels for their digital operations, in several major markets, many broadcasters operating on VHF channels found that their digital operations had significant problems, as the power levels were insufficient to reach many over-the-air sets, particularly those using "rabbit ears" antennas in urban areas.  


Continue Reading Will TV Channel 6 Be Used For Radio? – MMTC Petition Raises the Issue, Again