FCC Proposes Post-Transition DTV Allotment Table

Every eligible broadcast TV station in the United States now has a digital channel. In the Seventh Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making (7th NPRM) concerning "Advanced Television Systems and Their Impact upon the Existing Television Broadcast Service," the FCC released an Excel spreadsheet with the proposed post-transition DTV table of allotments. The seventh NPRM requested comments on "how to best time the adoption and effective date of the proposed DTV Table so that it is available for stations' reference and reliance in applying for construction permits or modifications needed to implement their post-transition facilities." It added that any issues related to the DTV transition other than the channel assignments in the proposed DTV table would be addressed in a later proceeding.

The FCC will consider requests for alternate channel assignments, but limited requests to stations that would be unable to fully construct authorized DTV facilities on their tentative channel designation (TCD). This applies to those that had agreed to construction of facilities smaller than those certified on FCC Form 381 to avoid causing impermissible interference to other TCDs. Licensees with international coordination issues may apply for alternate channel assignments, as can any licensee with a TCD on low-VHF Channels 2-6. New licensees and permittees that received a TCD assigned by the FCC that was different than their assigned NTSC or DTV channel because either of those channels would have caused impermissible interference to existing licensees may apply for alternate channel assignments. However, alternate channels may not cause more than 0.1 percent additional interference to DTV stations without obtaining a waiver from the FCC. The NPRM said the FCC proposed to grant waivers "where doing so would promote our overall spectrum efficiency objectives and ensure the best possible service to the public, including service to local communities."

In some limited cases, the FCC will allow certified facilities to be modified, as long as the proposed facilities do not cause more than 0.1 percent additional interference to any licensee's existing TCD, unless the proposal includes signed, written consent of every affected licensee. See the NPRM for the precise eligibility requirements for alternate channel assignments and requirements for modifying certified facilities.

The NPRM resolved some long-standing channel allocations in the northeast and also in the Sacramento, Calif. market. WABC-TV in New York City was allowed to use its analog Channel 7, with an effective radiated power of 3.2 kW. This was predicted to cause 2.8 percent new interference to WNJB-DT Channel 8 in New Brunswick, N.J. ABC argued the interference was to WNJB-DT's maximized facility, which it had not built. The predicted new interference was either outside the state of New Jersey or within the state, but in an area served by WNJN in Montclair, N.J, which currently carries the same programming. ABC also claimed that signals from WOLF in Hazelton, Pa. and WEDH in Hartford, Conn. would cause interference and result in a loss of service if it had to remain on its current DTV Channel 45.

The NPRM had an interesting discussion about the negotiations between ABC and New Jersey Public Broadcasting. I won't repeat it here, but the FCC granted ABC's request for Channel 7 for WABC-DT noting, "We conclude that the loss of service for WABC would affect current viewers of WABC, while the predicted loss of service for WNJB would affect areas outside of its current service area and primarily outside of the state of New Jersey. ... Based on all the factors in the record, we believe that the public interest and the factors enumerated in the Second DTV Periodic [Review] favor granting WABC a TCD on Channel 7 notwithstanding the predicted 2.8 percent interference to WNJB on Channel 8."

In other decisions, the FCC allotted Channel 9 to WEDN-DT in Norwich, Conn. and Channel 45 to WEDH in Hartford, Conn. KTFK-DT in Stockton, Calif. was allowed to move its post-transition DTV facility from Mt. Diablo to the Walnut Grove antenna farm and operate on Channel 26. KTFK had argued that with both its analog and DTV channels out of core, the only post-transition channel usable at Mt. Diablo, excluding low-VHF channels, was Channel 14, which was elected by the other Mt. Diablo licensee pursuant to a negotiated channel agreement between Telefutura, licensee of KTFK, and other licensees in the region. The FCC granted a request for KVIE in Sacramento, Calif. to use Channel 9 for DTV, even though this channel was predicted to cause 2.8 percent new interference to the KIXE-TV in Redding, Calif. One of the reasons the FCC cited for allowing KVIE to use Channel 9 in spite of the interference was "the Commission has long disfavored the use of Channel 6 as a DTV allotment."

For more information on the Seventh Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making (7th NPRM) and the proposed post-transition DTV table of allotments, it will be covered in more detail in the December RF Technology column.