FCC adopts channel sharing rules

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new rules April 27 that will allow broadcasters to share the same 6MHz television channel, putting in place a key portion of its plan to make more spectrum available for wireless broadband Internet service.

The agency adopted the Report and Order in anticipation of conducting voluntary incentive auctions. It allows multiple broadcast stations to elect to transmit programming while sharing a single channel.

The Report and Order establishes a framework for how two or more television licensees may voluntarily share a single 6MHz channel in conjunction with the auction process.

According to the rules, stations will continue to be required to retain at least one SD programming stream transmitted OTA at no direct charge to viewers. However, they will be given the flexibility to tailor channel sharing agreements to meet individual programming and economic needs.

Stations sharing the same 6MHz channel will employ a single transmission facility, but will each continue to be licensed separately. Each will retain its original call sign, retain all the rights pertaining to an FCC license and remain subject to all of the FCC's rules, policies and obligations.

The new rules apply to full power and Class A television stations, including both commercial and noncommercial educational television stations. They neither increase nor decrease the cable and satellite carriage rights currently afforded broadcast licensees.

The Report and Order did not act on the proposals in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish fixed and mobile allocations in the U/V bands nor to improve TV service on VHF channels.

According to a commission announcement, the agency will address the allocation issue in a future rulemaking and may also address the VHF issues at a later date.