With less than a year-and-a-half before the end of analog TV broadcasting (except for Class A, LPTV and TV translators), the FCC continues to issue orders dealing with the imminent transition and with the related white-space interference issue.
DTV public education
The FCC has solicited comment on several proposals intended to increase consumer understanding of the benefits of the DTV transition. Among the suggestions are mandatory public service announcements and the use of scrolls that impart information about the transition. The FCC is even considering the imposition of reporting requirements, enforced through civil penalties, concerning stations' pubic information efforts.
Final DTV table
The commission adopted the final DTV table of allotments, which lists the specific technical parameters (channel, location, power and tower height) for each authorized full-power TV station. In adopting the table, the commission approved changes to technical parameters for specific stations in order to resolve lingering discrepancies applicable to their allotments. Also, the commission sought further comment on a small number of DTV allotment specifications that were either authorized too late to be included in the final DTV table or that involved modifications which, in the FCC's view, required further comment.
White-space prototypes rejected
In the TV white-space proceeding, the commission's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) released an initial evaluation of prototype fixed-location white-space devices.
In 2006, the FCC called for prototype devices so their technical viability could be quantifiably measured by the agency's laboratory facility. OET noted that several of the features touted by the white-space proponents, such as dynamic power control, were not included in the prototypes it received. Therefore, the commission determined that further testing is not appropriate at this time.
The proponents concede that the first prototype devices were defective, but they argue that they should have been given a chance, midstream, to make corrections rather than suffer outright rejection. Presumably, the devices will be redesigned and resubmitted at a future date.
The rejected prototypes were fixed devices. Mobile white-space units, if any pass FCC muster, will be difficult to track and modify if they cause interference to over-the-air television. This is why the TV industry has vehemently opposed the authorization of mobile white-space operations. While wireless industry representatives — with support in Congress — continue to promote mobile white-space deployment, to date no prototypes have been tested or even fabricated.
As the FCC is the expert body that should be evaluating the white-space issue, it — not Congress — should make the decisions. The FCC's recent equipment-related actions could diminish the congressional initiatives that have clouded the white-space picture.
Harry C. Martin is a past president of the Federal Communications Bar Association and a member of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, PLC.
- December 1 is the deadline by which TV stations in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota must file their biennial ownership reports with the FCC.
- December 1 also is the deadline for TV and Class A stations in the following states and territories to place their annual EEO reports in their public files and post them on their Web sites: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont.
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By Tom Butts
By Tom Butts