LPTV conversion to digital

With the holiday season getting smaller in the rear-view mirror and many parts of the country dealing with ice, snow, and single-digit temperatures, broadcasters could be forgiven for dreaming about the sunshine and warmth that come with spring.  Before spring arrives, however, broadcasters need to tend to important regulatory matters in February.  And, if you find yourself eager to plan past February, use our 2020 Broadcasters’ Calendar as a reference tool for tracking regulatory dates through the end of 2020.

But focusing on the month ahead, by February 3, all AM, FM, LPFM, and FM translator stations in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi must file their license renewal applications.  For the full-power stations in the state, there’s an additional EEO task to complete irrespective of how many employees a station employment unit (SEU) has.  Before filing for license renewal, stations in these three states must submit FCC Schedule 396. This schedule is the Broadcast Equal Employment Opportunity Program Report, which is a reporting to the FCC of the SEU’s equal employment opportunity activities for the last license period (SEUs with fewer than five full-time employees are not required to maintain an EEO recruitment program and are only required to check a box that they have fewer than 5 full-time employees and skip ahead to the certification).  The sequencing here is important: When filing for license renewal, the application (Schedule 303-S) asks for the file number of your already-filed Schedule 396.  So, without having already filed the schedule, you won’t be able to complete your renewal application.
Continue Reading February Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters—License Renewals, EEO Reporting, Rulemaking Comments, FM Auction Filing Deadline, Lowest Unit Rate Windows, and More

The FCC today froze all applications for TV channel 51 by both applicants for full-power and low power facilities.  Channel 51 is immediately adjacent to the parts of the television bands that were reclaimed for wireless uses during the DTV transition.  Wireless users, including CTIA and the Rural Cellular Association, have sought to restrict use of Channel 51 because of the potential for interference to the wireless users in these new wireless frequencies.  Today’s order not only freezes new applications for Channel 51 by both full-power and low power TV stations (including LPTV, TV translator and Class A TV stations), but it also freezes the processing of pending applications for the channel.  At the same time, the FCC has taken steps to encourage existing users of the channel to vacate it, giving low power applicants 60 days to amend pending applications to specify lower channels.

The freeze on applications is supposedly temporary, while the FCC considers a proposal for a rulemaking to permanently clear Channel 51 of TV users to eliminate the alleged interference to wireless users.  But, given the action here, and the FCC’s other actions to clear portions of the TV spectrum for wireless users, it certainly looks like the FCC is predisposed to adopting the proposal of the wireless users to clear this channel.  The freeze affects proposals not only for new channels on this band, but also applications for increases in the facilities of stations already in the band so as to preserve the "status quo."  The FCC will consider waivers of the freeze, but only to replace existing facilities with new ones where the existing facilities need to be replaced or changed due damage by storm, zoning proceedings, or "unforeseen events."  Any new facilities must keep the station within its current coverage area.  No waivers of this requirement will be issued to low power stations – while full-power stations may be able to exceed their current contours only through a waiver request that demonstrates that some expansion is necessary to preserve existing coverage or the quality of service to the public.


Continue Reading FCC Freezes TV and LPTV Applications for Channel 51 – Encourages Users to Vacate the Channel

For our readers in the television business, there have been recent developments in two proceedings about which we have written recently.  Last week, we wrote about the extension of time to file reply comments on the CALM Act implementation Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, where the FCC is implementing a Congressional act to curb loud commercials

Last week the FCC rejected a request by a low power television broadcaster seeking an experimental license to test a technology that would allow broadcast television stations to provide broadband access.  The brief decision, available here, was issued by the FCC’s Media Bureau and rejected the request primarily on the grounds that the technology the LPTV broadcaster sought to test is inconsistent with the existing ATSC standard for transmission of digital television signals in the U.S.  This decision brought about a rebuke by a Wall Street Journal columnist, suggesting that the FCC was not fully exploring one way to rapidly deploy broadband through existing TV licensees, in fears of foregoing the revenues that would come from an auction of reclaimed television spectrum.   This issue arises while the FCC considers the digital conversion of LPTV, and the future of the television spectrum generally.

As has been well known and discussed for at least the last decade, the ATSC standard chosen for digital television broadcast service in the United States is not ideal for mobile service and is not well suited for two-way broadband service.  The current ATSC standard was designed to provide a signal to fixed locations for traditional in-home television watching.   As we have written before, in 2000, in the early days of the digital television conversion, some broadcasters suggested that the system be changed to accommodate a more robust signal allowing better mobile reception and other services that maximize the capacity of the digital channel. That proposal was rejected for fears of slowing the digital conversion, but is seemingly being revisited now. 


Continue Reading FCC Rejects Request by Low Power Television Broadcaster to Test Technology to Enable Broadband Service Over Broadcast Spectrum