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FCC Seeks Transition Input

The FCC is seeking its second major round of comment on the DTV transition, looking for guidance in rules yet to be made. Under examination are some of the fundamentals of the transition and the long-planned reclamation of the spectrum used for analog broadcasting, now mandated for 2007.

The commission wants input on channel election and the replication and maximization for DTV channels within the core spectrum (Channels 2-51). The FCC has proposed ending interference protection for network-affiliated DTV stations in the top 100 markets as of July 1, 2005, and for other DTV stations as of July 1, 2006. For Channels 60-69, the FCC announced it would no longer accept applications to increase broadcasters' analog or digital service area, as the commission looks toward its long-term goal of freeing up that spectrum for other services.

In addition, the FCC seeks comment on other basic elements key to overseeing the DTV transition, some of which were raised in a December General Accounting Office report that identified some unanswered questions in the transition. What, for example, is a market, for the purposes of returning the analog spectrum to the government when 85 percent of a market has DTV receivers? For that matter, to what does "85 percent" refer? Households, people, TV households?

Other areas subject to the inquiry include the current requirement that licensees simulcast a certain percentage of their analog content on their DTV channels; transition issues for noncommercial broadcasters; labeling requirements for consumer equipment; low-power stations; PSIP requirements; and the V-chip.

Comments are due April 14, with replies due one month later.