FCC Reports Indicate UHF TV Growth, VHF Decline

While the FCC looks for ways to reallocate almost half the UHF TV spectrum remaining after the end of the DTV transition to wireless carriers, the number of full service commercial UHF TV stations continues to increase, although the number of full service VHF TV stations and LPTV stations declined.

Last week the FCC released Broadcast Station Totals as of June 30, 2011 and Broadcast Station Totals as of Sept. 30, 2011. Quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year, the number of full service UHF TV stations increased slightly. During the same periods, the number of low power TV and Class A TV stations decreased significantly.

The number of full service commercial UHF TV stations grew from 1,022 in Sept. 2010 to 1,025 in June 30, 2011, and to 1,027 as of Sept. 30, 2011. The number of commercial VHF TV stations declined from 370 as of Sept. 30, 2010 to 359 by Sept. 30, 2011.

From Sept. 2010 to Sept. 2011, the number of UHF educational TV stations increased from 284 to 289, while the number of VHF educational TV stations remained the same at 107. The total number of full service TV stations, VHF and UHF, commercial and educational, dropped by one during the same period, from 1,783 to 1,782 stations.

It appears that low power TV and Class A TV stations have been struggling since the DTV transition. From Sept. 2010 to Sept. 2011, the number of UHF and VHF Class A stations dropped from 525 to 492 and the number of UHF and VHF LPTV stations decreased from 2,387 to 2,068. The number of TV translators also dropped--from 4,518 to 4,273.

For comparison, the number of full-power AM stations dropped slightly from 4,784 to 4,763, and the number of full-power FM radio stations (commercial and educational) grew from 9,763 to 10,102.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. As vice president of Broadcast Technology for NBCUniversal Local, H. Douglas Lung leads NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ RF and transmission affairs, including microwave, radars, satellite uplinks, and FCC technical filings. Beginning his career in 1976 at KSCI in Los Angeles, Lung has nearly 50 years of experience in broadcast television engineering. Beginning in 1985, he led the engineering department for what was to become the Telemundo network and station group, assisting in the design, construction and installation of the company’s broadcast and cable facilities. Other projects include work on the launch of Hawaii’s first UHF TV station, the rollout and testing of the ATSC mobile-handheld standard, and software development related to the incentive auction TV spectrum repack.
A longtime columnist for TV Technology, Doug is also a regular contributor to IEEE Broadcast Technology. He is the recipient of the 2023 NAB Television Engineering Award. He also received a Tech Leadership Award from TV Tech publisher Future plc in 2021 and is a member of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers.