The FCC continued to push the DTV transition last week by addressing a laundry list of rule changes and initiatives, including one that will determine the final channel lineup for stations during the digital era.
In a 5-0 vote, the FCC approved a three-round channel repacking timetable that will determine the final lineup of digital channels by June 2006. The process will be called the “Final DTV Table of Allotments.”
During the process, station licensees must elect the channel they will use for digital broadcasting after the transition. Most station licensees currently have two channels, one on which they are broadcasting analog signals, the other on which they are broadcasting digital signals. After the transition from analog to digital broadcasting is complete, stations will need only one digital channel and it must be within the core channels, two through 51.
The channel election process allows station licensees to choose which channel they prefer, subject to FCC evaluation of interference protection for all stations. The process is set to begin in November.
The FCC also established firm deadlines for digital stations to increase their power levels to serve additional viewers or lose interference protection to the unserved areas.
The commission said licensees may certify their intention to replicate and/or maximize their new digital channel assignments and such certifications are subject to sanctions if not fulfilled. Failure to meet these deadlines results in loss of interference protection on the existing digital channel, the FCC said.
The deadlines for replication and maximization are:
- July 1, 2005: Station licensees affiliated with the top-four networks in the top 100 markets that receive a tentative digital channel designation in the channel election process on their current digital channel must construct full, authorized facilities. Such licensees that receive a tentative digital channel designation on a channel that is not their current digital channel must serve at least 100 percent of their analog population coverage.
- July 1, 2006: All other commercial station licensees as well as noncommercial licensees that receive a tentative digital channel designation in the channel election process on their current digital channel must construct full, authorized DTV facilities. Such licensees that receive a tentative digital channel designation on a channel that is not their current digital channel must serve at least 80 percent of their analog population coverage.
- Station licensees that meet these deadlines will be permitted to carry-over maximized service areas to their new digital channels. Station licensees that fail to meet these deadlines will not be able to do so.
Among other broadcast-relations actions last week, the FCC:
- Required broadcasters to include PSIP information in their digital broadcast signals, thus promoting closed captioning, V-chip, channel numbering, and other functionality.
- Eliminated, for now, the simulcasting requirement to permit the transmission of additional innovative programming on broadcast digital channels.
- Mandated that, after an 18-month transition period, all digital television receivers contain v-chip functionality that will permit the current TV ratings system to be modified.
- Allowed stations to supplement DTV signal coverage with small transmitters placed to fill gaps throughout their market areas.
For more information visit www.fcc.gov.
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