FCC Denies Stay of LPTV Digital Transition Deadline

WASHINGTON: There will be no delay of the digital deadline for low-power TV stations, leaving around 300 licensees out in the cold. Perhaps literally. The Federal Communications Commission today rejected a request from the National Translator Association to stay the section of its deadline rules requiring out-of-core LPTVs to find a core channel by Sept. 1, or cease broadcasting by the end of the year.

The date is part of the commission’s order covering the digital transition of 7,240 LPTVs, including Class A stations and translators. There are about 4,500 licensed translators throughout the United States transmitting full-power TV station signals to remote areas. The NTA said around 300 would be affected by the Sept. 1 deadline. The organization said the date didn’t allow sufficient time for them to locate an in-core channel, demonstrate non-interference with neighboring signals and do tower work before winter sets in.

Too, bad, the FCC replied. Though LPTVs were not subject to the June 2009 digital television transition deadline for full-power stations, they were not precluded from seeking new channel assignments. And all of them knew that Chs. 52-69 were being auctioned off to wireless carriers, and that TV operations would be limited to core Chs. 2-51.

“Low-power television licensees on out-of-core channels have been authorized to file displacement applications for over ten years,” the commission’s denial said.

The commission further noted that there were 1,000 LPTVs operating on Chs. 52-69 in 2004, and just 600 when it issued the deadline order in July. Of those, 300 had already filed for a core channel, and 20 more filed after the order was released. In addition to ceasing out-of-core LPTV operations, it sets forth a digital-only deadline of Sept. 1, 2015.

Verizon, which bought 112 of the licenses in Chs. 52-69 during the 2008 700 MHz auction, opposed the NTA’s request for a stay, saying it needed a date-certain for when the spectrum would be cleared.

The commission ruled that the NTA met none of the necessary criteria for justifying a stay.

~ Deborah D. McAdams, Television Broadcast