HARRY C. MARTIN /
09.01.2007 12:00 AM
DTV Surprise
Moving to your analog channel? Avoid coverage losses.

There may be an unpleasant surprise for TV stations planning to use their current analog channels for digital operations once the DTV conversion is complete. The parameters proposed in the DTV Table of Allotments substantially limit the DTV coverage that some licensees’ stations will be able to provide once they start operating digitally on their current analog channels.

The problem results from a conflict between the proposed DTV Table of Allotments, which specifies directional operation in many cases, and a station’s actual analog operations, which commonly are nondirectional. The commission has stated that stations may not expand their coverage outside of the footprint specified in the proposed DTV Table of Allotments, so stations are left trying to squeeze their analog operations into the directional digital parameters in the table.

Appendix B to the FCC’s seventh further notice of proposed rulemaking in the DTV proceeding — released last October — consists of a table of all proposed DTV allotments. The table includes the basic information about each station’s proposed post-transition digital facilities, such as channel, effective radiated power (ERP), height above average terrain, antenna ID, and latitude and longitude. The antenna ID number is a key factor, as each such number corresponds to a particular directional antenna pattern in the FCC’s antenna database.

The majority of the proposed allotments in Appendix B specify an antenna ID number, which means that the majority of proposed DTV allotments have directional characteristics.

Stations planning on using their present analog channels for their post-transition DTV operation may find that the DTV directional antenna specified in the Appendix B table is different from what the station is otherwise planning to use post-transition. Stations returning to VHF analog channels from UHF DTV channels may have particular difficulties because the design of digital patterns is less flexible for VHF channels, and some of the minimums specified are quite low. The FCC currently requires that such stations not exceed their Appendix B coverage footprint, so those stations that might want to use their existing nondirectional antenna may need to reduce ERP to meet the FCC’s requirement. Of course, reduction in ERP results in reduction of service area. In some cases, that reduction would be severe.

The commission’s recent notice of proposed rulemaking in its further review of the DTV process, however, indicates that the agency recognizes this potential problem. One solution would be to allow stations making a transition back to their analog channels to exceed their proposed DTV allotment footprints as long as they do not cause any interference. Stations DTV surprise Moving to your analog channel? Avoid coverage losses. BY HARRY C. MARTINthat have selected their current analog channels as their post-transition channels should examine this issue and, if a problem appears, consider notifying the commission.

The deadline for comments on this issue was last month, but the FCC will likely consider appeals after that date if the proposals do not cause harm to other stations.

In other news: Listen to TV on the radio

Due to the proximity of TV Channel 6 (82MHz to 88MHz) to the lower portion of the FM band (ending at 88.1MHz), in some areas, radios pick up the audio signals of TV stations broadcasting on that channel. As a result, some enterprising Channel 6 TV licensees have managed to put their proximity to the FM band to use to reach radio audiences.

For example, the Channel 6 station in Temple, TX, tells radio station listeners to tune to 87.7 to listen to shows, such as “Dr. Phil” on “NBC 6 Radio.” The station’s Web site, with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm, says, “When you can’t watch, listen!” The same approach has been taken by a Channel 6 LPTV station in Hawaii, which is targeting radio audiences with programming suitable for listening only.

All of this will cease to exist once analog Channel 6 operations disappear, but that could be later rather than sooner in the case of LPTVs, which have no DTV conversion deadline.

Dateline

• October 1 is the deadline by which TV stations in Iowa and Missouri must file their biennial ownership reports with the FCC.

• October 1 also is the deadline for TV and Class A stations in the following states and territories to place their annual EEO reports in their public files and post them on their Web sites: Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon, the Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Washington.



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