Commerce Committee DTV action more helpful to translator stations, says CBA

A move last week by the Senate Commerce Committee to make $65 million available to help defray the cost of transitioning LPTV stations and translator stations from analog to digital will benefit only a limited number of low-power broadcasters, according to the Community Broadcasters Association.

The Senate committee’s move April 24 was prompted by a request from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to make the fund available sooner than the original October 2010 timeframe to speed the digital transition process.

However, eligibility for the funds is determined by the number of viewers in a station’s market, and the markets eligible are so small — below 20,000 — that only a few LPTV stations would qualify, said Greg Herman, CBA vice president for technology.

“That move didn’t change critical components to markets over 20,000 (viewers),” he said. “It’s aimed more at assisting TV translator stations than low power stations.”

According to Herman, recent testimony on Capitol Hill from association president Ron Bruno pegs the sum required to transition all low power, Class A and TV translator stations to digital at about $400 million. Making “meaningful funds” available for LPTV, translators and Class A to make the transition should not be out of the question, he said, in light of the $9.6 billion the government raised in the last auction of freed up television spectrum.

The plight of low-power, translator and Class A stations in the DTV transition took on new urgency in late March when the CBA filed a petition with U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for a writ of mandamus to force the FCC to enforce the All Channel Receiver Act and to stop the distribution and marketing of digital television converter boxes without the ability to receive analog TV signals.