FCC Announces Filing Window for LPTV and Translator Digital Channels

The FCC has scheduled June 19-30, 2006 as the filing window for LPTV and TV translator digital companion channel applications. This filing window was originally set for May 1-12, 2006 in Public Notice DA 06-123, which also included a freeze on filing LPTV, TV translator and Class A analog and digital minor change, analog and digital displacement and digital on-channel conversion applications through May 12.

The April 20, 2006 Public Notice DA 06-874, extends the current freeze on LPTV, TV translator and Class A analog and digital applications until June 30, 2006. The FCC is providing an exception to the freeze for stations that can demonstrate they face imminent disruption of service. These stations may request special temporary authority to continue operations. Stations should refer to this notice for more information on application procedures.

During the filing window, LPTV, TV translator and Class A licensees and permittees may file an application for a companion digital channel, but if granted a second channel, they will have to return one of their channels at a future date. Licensees and permittees may request either a companion channel or a digital "flash cut" for their existing channel, but not both. Those having a license, construction permit, or pending application for on-channel conversion are not eligible to submit an application for a companion channel. The FCC reminded applicants with Class A TV licenses or permits that companion channels would be considered a secondary service.

Applicants for companion DTV channels must file a short-form application and the engineering data from FCC Forms 346 or 301-CA, as appropriate. The FCC will use this information after the filing window closes to determine which applications are mutually exclusive. Applicants whose applications are mutually exclusive will have a limited period to use engineering solutions and settlements to resolve conflicts. The FCC staff will not begin a comprehensive review of applicants' technical proposals until after the submission of long-form applications by winning bidders post-auction or by applicants whose applications are identified as non-mutually exclusive. FCC staff will also review applications to resolve mutually exclusivity issues during the settlement period.

The commission reminds potential bidders that they are "solely responsible for investigating and evaluating all technical and marketplace factors that may have a bearing on the value of the broadcast facilities they are seeking in this application filing window," according to the April 20 notice, which also states that the commission "makes no representations or warranties about the use of this spectrum for particular services. Applicants should be aware that an FCC auction represents an opportunity to become an FCC construction permittee in the broadcast service, subject to certain conditions and regulations."

The commission also said that an FCC auction does not constitute an endorsement by the commission of any particular service, technology, or product, and that a construction permit or license doesn't guarantee business success.

The notice also encourages applicants to conduct research to determine the existence of any pending administrative or judicial proceedings that could affect their decision regarding participation during the window and to continue that research throughout the auction. Applicants are also advised to do their own technical analysis so if successful in a bid for a specific construction permit, "they will be able to build and operate facilities that fully comply with the Commission's technical and legal requirements."

The post-transition full power DTV Table of Allotments has not been finalized and in some markets, especially in the northeast, it is likely some channels that now appear usable, as companion digital channels, may prove unusable when the final Table is released.

For information on the basic requirements for companion channel applications, see the article in the Feb. 1, 2006 RF Report.