Commission grapples with how to implement ‘analog nightlight’ service

A new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, lays out the tentative approach the FCC is taking to comply with a new law to provide limited continued analog TV service following Feb. 17, 2009.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Responding to a new law that will permit continued analog TV transmission following the DTV transition in February 2009 under certain circumstances, the Federal Communications Commission adopted and released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Dec. 24, seeking comment on the procedures the commission plans to use to comply with the law.

On Dec. 12, Congress sent President George W. Bush the Short-term Analog Flash and Emergency Readiness Act, also known as the “Analog Nightlight Act” authorizing continued analog television transmission of emergency information and DTV transition information for 30 days following the Feb. 17, 2009 (ending at 11:59:50 p.m. on March 19, 2009), DTV transition where technically feasible. The act, which became law on Dec. 23, gives the FCC until Jan. 15, 2009, to put a program in place to “encourage and permit” the proscribed analog transmissions.

In the notice, the commission urged “all eligible stations” to participate in provisioning the nightlight service, and those that are not eligible to work together where possible to contribute to providing the temporary public service.

As part of the notice, the FCC published a list, which the commission describes as a conservative estimate, of stations in 136 of 210 designated market areas (DMAs) that “may be eligible to participate” and not cause harmful interference. The commission is seeking help from stations not on the list regarding whether or not they too might be able to provide the continued analog service without creating interference.

The commission will identify areas in which no nightlight service will be available and “seek reasonable solutions” for providing the service as well as comments on those solutions. According to the notice, solutions could include a station staying on to provide analog nightlight service without causing “undue interference” or a low-power station not transitioned to digital transmitting the nightlight messages.

The notice seeks comment on tentative commission conclusions that include:

  • The nightlight law does not envision any programming, including advertisement, other than emergency information and DTV transition information.
  • Analog stations flash cutting to their analog channel for post-transition digital service will not generally be available for the analog nightlight service.
  • Only stations operating on channels 2 through 51 will be eligible for the nightlight service, given provisions of the new law.
  • Cable operators are not bound by mandatory carriage and retransmission requirements to carry analog nightlight signals.

Stations listed in Appendix A of the notice, which are pre-approved to provide the nightlight service, must notify the FCC of their intent to do so by filing a Legal STA electronically via the commissions Consolidated Database System with the informal filing form. The commission will waive the filing fee.

With so little time between the enactment of the Analog Nightlight Act and the deadline Congress gave the commission to implement the program, the FCC has set in place an abbreviated comment period for the notice. (Comments due five days after publication in the Federal Register and reply comments eight days after publication.)

To review Appendix A, which includes stations that are pre-approved to provide the nightlight service, visit http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-08-281A2.pdf.

For more information, visit www.fcc.gov.