Consumer Off-air Reception Inquiries Still Big at FCC

The release of the FCC's Consumer & Governmental Affair Bureau's "Summary of Top Consumer Inquiry Subjects" contradicts a common perception that interest in off-air TV reception is decreasing.

Next to "Billing & Rates," this was the most popular topic among the 1,650 inquires in "Cable & Satellite Services" category. Some 480 inquiries were processed in the third quarter of 2011, an increase of almost 25 percent from the 385 inquires processed in the second quarter of 2011. There was even greater interest in "Digital Television Issues," with 1,117 inquires in the third quarter of 2011, up slightly from 1,102 inquires received in the second quarter. This is just behind "Broadcast Programming Issues" with 3,664 inquires listed in the "Radio and Television Broadcasting" category.

Interference was the third most popular topic in the "Radio and Television Broadcasting" and "Wireless Telecommunications" categories. The report shows interference-related inquiries dropping slightly between the second and third quarters of 2011; however, interference in the broadcasting category increased slightly.

Although the number of inquiries in all categories is small compared to the total number of television viewers, the significant percentage of inquiries regarding off-air reception devices and digital television gives regulators additional reasons to move carefully when considering reallocating TV broadcast spectrum so quickly after the 2009 DTV transition that saw 108 MHz of broadcast spectrum transferred to other services.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.