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Second round DTV channel conflicts

In February, the commission issued guidelines for resolving the few situations (involving a total of 30 licensees) in which interference conflicts remain unresolved after the second round of channel elections were made last November. Those guidelines afford the affected licensees more latitude than they previously may have expected.

Guidelines

As originally contemplated, the conversion plan called for licensees to make their second round elections, and then, if conflicts still remain, the conflicted licensees would be limited to requesting the contingent channel specified in their Form 384's (i.e., their second round election forms). The contingent channels would then be evaluated based on the licensees' certified coverage areas. The commission did not plan to give licensees the opportunity to propose reduced operating facilities in order to resolve engineering conflicts.

Due to the limited number of conflicts that remain, those licensees must file, by April 3, a second round conflict decision form (Form 385), in which they indicate how the conflicts identified thus far will be resolved. In their submissions, licensees may propose reducing their operating facilities for their proposed elected channel, but then they must include a Schedule B specifying their proposed operating parameters.

The few remaining licensees may, as part of a Negotiated Channel Agreement, also propose to increase their operating facilities to serve a larger coverage area. In such cases, the licensees had to, by March 3, formally amend their pending proposals so that the proposed coverage contours would not extend beyond the coverage contours of the currently certified facilities.

Under the new policy, affected licensees may also propose any in-core channel as their contingent channel, but those doing so will not be afforded any additional opportunity to resolve any conflicts in the second round. If a conflict arises, the licensee will be required to participate in the third round.

LPTV, Class A and translator digital filing

The FCC has announced that the window for LPTV, TV translator and Class A stations to file for a digital companion channel will be from May 1-12, 2006. To accommodate these digital filings, the FCC will impose a freeze on the filing of LPTV, TV translator and Class A analog and digital minor change, analog and digital displacement, and digital on-channel conversion applications. The freeze will begin April 3 and end May 12, 2006.

Unlike full-power television stations, however, LPTVs, Class A stations and TV translators were not automatically given a second channel for DTV operations during the transition period. Instead, LPTVs and TV translators could either implement an on-channel digital conversion of their analog channel (sometimes referred to as flash-cutting), or they could seek a second companion channel that may be operated simultaneously with their analog channel (much as full-powered stations simultaneously operate their analog and DTV channels). That is the opportunity afforded in the May 2006 window.

For Class A, LPTV or TV translator licensees who are contemplating using a digital companion channel rather than on-channel flash-cut conversion, this may be the only chance to get the companion channel that best suits the stations' needs. Operation on such companion channels will have to protect the authorized analog or digital facilities of TV broadcast stations; the authorized analog facilities of TV translator, LPTV and Class A television stations; and 700MHz public safety and commercial wireless licensees.

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

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

Dateline

June 1 is the deadline for TV stations, LPTVs, Class A stations and TV translators in Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming to file their license renewal applications.

TV stations must file biennial ownership reports with their renewals. TV stations, Class A stations and LPTVs that originate programming must also file their EEO program reports (Form 396) along with their renewals.

June 1 is the start date for pre-filing renewal announcements for TV stations in California, in anticipation of the filing of their renewal applications by August 1.

June 1 is the deadline for TV stations in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia to file biennial ownership reports.

June 1 is the deadline for TV stations in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming to place their EEO public file reports in their public files and on their Web sites.