The FCC has denied a request filed by KJA, LLC licensee of TV station KJLA, channel 57, in Ventura, CA to discontinue operation of the KJLA analog signal on channel 57 and transmit only on its digital channel 49. While the Reallocation and Service Rules for the 698-746 MHz Spectrum (TV Channels 52-59) allowed the FCC to consider requests by TV stations to give up these channels prior to the end of the DTV transition, before granting such requests, the commission said it would examine three factors:
1) whether granting the request would make new or expanded wireless services available to consumers;
2) whether grant would result in the loss of any of the four stations in the DMA with the largest audience share, the loss of sole service licensed to the local community, or the loss of the community's sole noncommercial educational television service;
3) whether grant would have a negative effect on the pace of the DTV transition in that market.
In denying KJLA's request, the FCC said channel 57 has yet to be auctioned for use by new wireless services, so vacating it would not serve the public interest by expediting the new or expanded use of the spectrum. Even though KJLA submitted data showing that only 0.25 percent of the station's audience use KJLA's over-the-air signal, the FCC said, "we find that in a market the size of Los Angeles, the loss of analog over-the-air service to even 0.25 percent of a station s audience could result in the disenfranchisement of a significant number of persons."
The FCC letter denying KJLA's request
added that, "KJLA (TV) provides unique Spanish-language programming that will no longer be available to its analog over-the-air viewers should we permit the station to discontinue operation on channel 57. Ventura and Los Angeles Counties contain sizable Hispanic populations (33.4 percent for Ventura and 44.6 percent for Los Angeles according to 2000 Census data). The loss of analog over-the-air Spanish-language programming could have a significant impact in these areas."
The FCC said that while discontinuing KJLA's analog service may not affect the efforts of other stations in the market to convert to digital, "you have not shown how the public interest will be served by a grant of your request. You have shown only that the private interests of the station will served, namely its ability to save money from its analog operation."
KJLA cited three cases where stations were allowed to discontinue their analog operations. The FCC said that those cases were different. In two of the three cases, the stations were able to demonstrate there would be no actual loss of analog over-the-air service. In the other case, the station was a noncommercial station that had sustained a large operating loss and it had shown that discontinuing its analog service "was necessary to prevent it from having to sacrifice much of its unique noncommercial educational programming." KJLA did not cite financial hardship as a reason for shutting down its analog service.
More information is available in the FCC letter denying KJLA's request