Broadcasters to FCC: Give us a DTV break!

The nation’s terrestrial television broadcasters sent a clear message to the FCC as it considers new rules for the transition to digital television: Go easy on us.

Facing the FCC’s second DTV biennial review, the broadcasters are seeking the regulator’s leniency on nearly every remaining issue. The list of recommendations, filed in a 43-page document, was submitted by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV).

Although the broadcast groups offered praise for prior FCC actions regarding the DTV transition, they warn there will be difficult days ahead. The transition, said the report, “remains a complex process with some of the most critical and difficult issues still to be addressed.”

The broadcasters urged the FCC to:

- establish a channel election deadline of May 1, 2005, and in establishing this deadline, the Commission should work with the industry to establish procedures and policies that will assure both an equitable process and a spectrum-optimized repacking process.

“MSTV and NAB believe that the repacking process at the end of the transition will be complicated and will require close cooperation between government and industry to protect against the creation of a sub-optimal DTV service and table that disenfranchises viewers,” the report said.

- prohibit broadcasters from swapping their DTV and analog channel allotments because of the potential for disruptive interference and because such swaps could circumvent the channel selection process;

- establish a use-it-or-lose-it replication and maximization deadline that coincides with the end of the DTV transition. This is necessary, they said, to assure flexibility in the repacking process, avoid stranded investment, mitigate financial hardships on smaller broadcasters, minimize interference to analog service during the transition, and preserves the future DTV broadcast service of the public in the post-transition world.

“Requiring broadcasters to ramp up to full facilities during the transition may exacerbate DTV-to-analog interference problems during the transition, to the detriment of viewers,” the report said.

- avoid penalizing broadcasters awaiting action on their properly filed DTV applications by requiring them to construct facilities pursuant to a minimum facilities STA;

- eliminate its simulcasting rule as unnecessary, untimely and unduly limiting of broadcaster flexibility in the DTV transition;

- permit smaller and smaller market broadcasters additional flexibility to phase-in their hours of DTV operation;

- permit satellite stations to relinquish their DTV authorizations and flash cut to DTV on their analog channels, subject to the Commission’s interference rules;

- interpret the statutory provisions on DTV extensions in a manner that gives meaning to the statutory language and Congress’ intent to ensure that “a significant number of consumers in any given market are not left without broadcast television service” when analog service ceases.

Also on the wish list is a must-carry requirement that cable systems air broadcast stations’ multicast streams, and adoption of broadcast flag anti-piracy technology so that high definition content remains a part of the free, over-the-air digital television service.

“MSTV and NAB believe that these policies will be to promote Congress’ and the Commission’s goal of avoiding undue disruption to viewers or severe hardship to broadcasters as a result of the DTV transition and will assure that the public’s over-the-air television service will be robust in the all-digital world,” the report said.

To download a full copy of the report visit

The filing is FCC MB Docket No. 03-15.

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