This year the FCC will continue its push towards a full DTV transition. The most immediate concerns for TV broadcasters are as follows:
Buildout and PSIP deadlines
While already widely publicized, it bears repeating that network affiliates in the top 100 markets are required to build out their full DTV facilities by July 1, 2005, and that all operating DTV stations must implement PSIP technology by Feb. 1, 2005.
Round One channel elections
On December 21, 2004, the commission released the revised DTV Table and established Feb. 10, 2005, as the deadline for those licensees with at least one in-core DTV channel (2 to 51) to file FCC Form 382, electing a channel for permanent DTV operation. Licensees with two “low” VHF channels (2 to 6), and licensees with only one in-core channel, could elect instead to take a pass on this “Round One,” relinquishing their in-core DTV channels and rolling the dice for a better channel in “Round Two” elections.
The commission will now review the elections made in Round One. Where it determines that a Round One channel election will result in an interference conflict, the commission will notify the licensees involved in the conflict and will require them to file an FCC Form 383 to inform the commission whether:
(i) they have resolved the interference by agreement or technical amendments;
(ii) they have decided to switch from using their respective NTSC in-core channel to their in-core DTV channel, if they have one (by the terms of the DTV Table of Allotments, such channels have been protected since 1997); or
(iii) they have elected to abandon their Round One channel election and have chosen to participate in Round Two elections instead.
Petitions for reconsideration of DTV order
Ten parties filed petitions for reconsideration or clarification of the new DTV transition rules. While the filing of the petitions does not automatically postpone or stay the transition schedule, such petitions could affect the rules and/or timetable governing the transition, and it is expected the FCC will act on them expeditiously.
Three of the petitioners seek redress from the commission's decision to dismiss all pending petitions for rule-making for new or different analog television channels. Those rule-making petitions had been filed by parties who did not have a paired DTV channel.
Two engineering consulting firms also weighed in with petitions. They questioned the interference protection standards adopted by the commission and suggested certain modifications to the interference prediction software.
Digital TV translator and LPTV rules
In September, the commission adopted new rules to permit TV translators and low-power television stations to convert to digital. These rules became effective on Jan. 28, 2005. However, the information collection aspects of the new rules (i.e., the forms that LPTV operators may need to file) will not be available until OMB approves the new forms.
City-grade service requirements
As of Dec. 31, 2004, DTV city-grade service requirements have changed such that, for Channels 2 to 6, the field strength of the principal community signal must be 35dBu; for Channels 7 to 13, the field strength must be 43dBu; and for Channels 14 to 69, the field strength must be 48dBu.
Harry C. Martin is president of the Federal Communications Bar Association and a member of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth PLC, Arlington, VA.
In addition to the DTV deadlines discussed above, TV broadcasters in the following states must meet these renewal application and related deadlines:
Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee:
Renewal applications, EEO program reports and biennial ownership reports must be filed on or before April 1. Post-filing renewal announcements must begin on April 1.
Michigan and Ohio:
Renewal pre-filing announcements must begin to be broadcast on April 1 and continue on April 16, May 1 and May 16. Renewal applications, EEO program reports and biennial ownership reports then must be filed on or before June 1.
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