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FCC Challenges Status of 16 Class A Stations

It appears the FCC has already started taking actions that will make it easier to repack full service TV stations in less UHF spectrum. While there is no reason to believe the 16 listings for "Order to Show Cause why Class A authorization should not be modified to low power television" in Tuesday''s Daily Digest are directly related to the UHF band repacking, there's no question that Class A stations--which are afforded protections similar to those given full-power stations--could reduce the number of channels available for repacking or drive up the cost of spectrum in the reverse auction.

LPTV stations were able to apply for Class A status during a limited filing window after the FCC established the Class A Television Service in 2000. Those stations that requested Class A status had to comply with many of the Part 73 rules applicable to full-power TV stations, including a minimum amount children's programming and a special requirement for three hours per week of locally produced programming.

It wasn't difficult for the FCC to determine that the 16 Class A stations listed in Tuesday's Daily Digest were not complying with their license requirements. Commission records showed that the licensees failed to file the required quarterly reporting on children's television programming.

Some Class A licensees have voluntarily given up their Class A status rather than meet the more stringent rules. As of Dec. 31, 2011, the number of Class A TV licensees was 481--down from 522 just a year earlier.

I wonder how many other Class A's will be getting an "Order to Show Cause why Class A authorization should not be modified to low power television"?

As I mentioned last week, the "Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012," allowing the FCC to auction the broadcast spectrum, did not provide any specific protection for low power TV stations. The secondary status of these stations remains unchanged, meaning if relocation of a full-power UHF station is necessary, then LPTV operations in the way will have to look for other channels. Finding such slots, at least in major markets, is likely to be difficult.