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Digital LPTV on the Agenda for Wednesday's Open FCC Meeting

Low-power TV stations, TV translators and Class A TV stations will be able to continue broadcasting in analog after Feb. 17, 2009. The FCC allowed Low-Power and Class A TV stations to file for digital companion channels on the condition that they return one of the two channels at some point in the future.

So far, there is no date by which these stations have to shut down analog transmission, but that may change Oct. 15 when the FCC holds its next Open Commission Meeting. The meeting will be held in Nashville, Tenn. The first item on the agenda is:

Amendment of Parts 73 and 74 of the Commission's Rules to Establish Rules for Digital Low Power Television, Television Translator, and Television Booster Stations and to Amend Rules for Digital Class A Television Stations.

SUMMARY: The Commission will consider an Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Memorandum Opinion and Order considering issues with respect to the low power television digital transition.

While the FCC is expected to set an LPTV and Class A TV analog shut-off date, perhaps as soon as two years from now, TV translator licensees have pushed for a market demand based transition for their stations. TV translators generally serve isolated rural communities where there is not as much demand for broadcast spectrum—some continued to operate on Channels 70 and higher without causing interference long after broadcasters left those channels. After the 2009 analog shutdown, I expect manufacturers will stop including analog reception in TV devices. Eventually, as TV sets with analog tuners are retired, operators of these rural TV translators will need to convert them to digital.

Comcast and other cable interests are pushing back on the plan, while a coalition of LPTV stations unleashed a petition Friday in favor of the plan.

If you are interested in the discussion, a limited number of Internet live feeds of the meeting will be available. See for details.

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.