HARRY C. MARTIN /
09.01.2006 12:00 PM
DTV delay

The July 1 deadline for all stations to commence operation of their DTV facilities with either replication or maximized facilities — or face the loss of interference protection — has passed. A significant number of stations — in the hundreds — could not meet that deadline and filed waiver requests by the extended July 7 deadline.

All such stations operating with reduced power were also required to file requests for extensions of their current Special Temporary Authorizations (STAs), as the commission had previously set July 1 as the expiration date for such STAs.

Contributing factors

Predictably, many of the waiver requests were filed at or near the last minute. The situation was not improved by the fact that the commission waited until June 14 to release a public notice describing the steps to meet or request a waiver of the July 1 deadline.

The FCC's public notice also caused confusion because it was unclear. For example, while the public notice indicated that stations with reduced power STAs needing a waiver of the deadline would have to file an application for extension of their DTV construction permits (in addition to the waiver request), FCC staff informally advised stations to file either one or the other, but not both. Also, the week before the deadline, the contact person listed in the public notice was out of the office.

Matters were further complicated by the fact the last day of the postponed filing window for Class A, LPTV and TV translator stations to seek digital companion channels nearly coincided with the replication and maximization deadline. Thus, many were trying to finish construction and file license applications for DTV stations, file modification applications for stations that elected to go back to analog facilities and operate with 80 percent replication facilities, and file companion channel applications — all at the same time.

In light of the flurry of activity, which occurred just before and during the July 4 holiday weekend, the commission postponed the replication and maximization deadline until July 7.

What next?

Now that the waiver requests are on file, based on last year's experience, it is likely that they will sit without action for some time. It has been mentioned that the commission is considering an item to penalize broadcasters who failed to build full-power facilities, but it is not entirely clear what the final contents of that item will be.

There also is talk that the commission may question stations that initially certified they would build maximized or replication facilities and now are seeking modified authorizations for something less. The thought is that those stations made false certifications when they stated they would build more powerful facilities. Of course, the obvious response is stations initially believed they would need greater power levels, but after actual experience with lower power operations, discovered that the bigger facilities would be an unnecessary expense.

There has been little, if any, action on the waiver requests filed last year. The staff has been slow to act in the hope that stations will complete construction of their full-power facilities.


Harry C. Martin is the past president of the Federal Communications Bar Association and a member of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth PLC.

Dateline

Oct. 2 is the filing deadline for renewal applications and EEO program reports for TV stations in Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and the Pacific Islands. This deadline also applies to TV translators, LPTV and Class A stations in those states, although translators and LPTV stations that do not originate programming do not have to file EEO reports.

Oct. 2 is the deadline for TV stations in the following states and territories to file their biennial ownership reports: Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Oregon, the Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Washington.

Send questions and comments to: harry.martin@penton.com



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