FCC Clarifies Rules for DTV Channel Negotiations

February 8, 2005
The FCC issued a Public Notice providing additional information on negotiated channel arrangements, establishment of a Form 382 mailbox, revisions to FCC Form 381 Certifications and notification of flash-cut decisions. Stations would only have one opportunity to enter into a negotiated channel arrangement (NCA), according to the FCC. If the commission rejects the NCA, it will not be able to propose a substitute NCA.

If--after reviewing the record--the Commission finds that the NCA could have an adverse impact on the interests of a station not a party to the NCA, the NCA will be rejected, according to the Public Notice, which also indicated, "There will be no separate conflict round for NCAs. In the event the NCA is rejected, the parties to the NCA will revert to their alternate channel elections."

Stations filing an NCA must pick one of their assigned channels as an alternate channel election. However, if a station specifies its out-of-core channel, it will be presumed to be requesting its alternate election be deferred to round two. Stations with two in-core low-VHF channels can also release their in-core channel(s) and participate in round two. In either case, stations that want to participate in round two must send an email to the Form 382 mailbox
, stating this request and send a letter confirming the request to Nazifa Naim, Federal Communications Commission, Room 2-A726, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.

The FCC will give other stations a chance to challenge the NCAs. After Feb. 10, 2005, the FCC Media Bureau will issue a Public Notice listing stations participating in the first round channel elections that are also participating in an NCA. Fourteen days will be allowed for filing objections to NCAs after release of the Public Notice. Proponents of the NCAs will be given seven days after the 14-day deadline to file replies.

Stations will not be allowed to use NCAs to "maximize" and serve larger coverage areas. Due to changes in interference on different channels, the population served may change and these changes will not be considered to be maximizations. If the population served is reduced, the FCC will revise the station's required population served to that covered by the new facilities.

Reductions in coverage, including the use of more directional antenna patterns, can be used to resolve interference conflicts. This is similar to arrangements the FCC anticipates could be used to resolve interference conflicts resulting from the first and second round channel elections. Stations agreeing to a reduction in coverage must include details on the revised facilities they intend to operate in the signed agreement. Stations must also provide the FCC with a copy of the agreement reflecting the proposed technical parameters no later than three days after the Public Notice is released, listing stations participating in an NCA. Schedule B of Form 383 should be used to specify the proposed technical parameters and file it electronically through CDBS. Once the FCC approves the NCA, these new facilities will become the stations' certified operating facilities. Stations not proposing reduced technical facilities as part of the agreement do not have to file their NCAs unless requested by the FCC.

The FCC said it would not make changes to update FCC Form 381 certifications as reflected in the updated Table of Station Assignment and Service Information released on Dec. 21, 2004, except for changes to the certifications of four stations: WPCB-TV Greensburg, Pa., KOCE-TV Huntington Beach Calif., KXAM-TV Llano Texax, and KGMB Honolulu Hawaii. For details on these changes, refer to the Public Notice.

Finally, licensees that want to surrender an assigned channel and flash cut from analog to digital must elect a channel by the relevant deadline for channel elections and notify the FCC that they intend to flash cut if their channel election is granted. Stations participating in the first round of channel elections (stations with at least one in-core channel) must notify the FCC by by e-mail no later than Feb. 10, 2005 and send a letter to Nazifa Naim at the FCC address listed earlier in this RF Report.

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