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FCC sets September 2015 deadline for LPTV digital transition

The FCC last week set a hard deadline for the end of analog television transmission for LPTV stations of Sept. 1, 2015.

The commission’s Second Report and Order establishing the deadline also sets Dec. 31, 2011, as the deadline for both analog and digital low-power television stations operating in the 700MHz band (Channels 52 through 69) to cease operations. Those same LPTV licensees using the 700MHz band must submit displacement applications to the commission by Sept. 1, 2011.

The order included several other key provisions for LPTV licensees, including:

• Authorizing an increase in the power limits for VHF low-power television channels to the current analog power limit of 3kW;

• Delegating to the FCC Media Bureau the authority to set up the procedures and time frames for stations not yet converted to notify the commission on their conversion to DTV transmission;

• Broadening the class of LPTV stations subject to ancillary and supplementary fee rules;

• Changing existing rules to allow LPTV stations to move their transmitter sites by up to 30mi from existing reference coordinates for transmitting antenna;

• Revising the vertical antenna patterns used in the prediction methodology for LPTV service; and

• Allowing LPTV operators to use the same emission mask used by full-power DTV stations.

The Second Report and Order, released July 15, is the latest action by the commission in a process beginning in 2004 with the agency’s Digital LPTV Order. That order set up regulations aimed at speeding up the transition to digital transmission by LPTV stations and to protecting viewers watching analog LPTV stations, the latest order said.

Under the original order, LPTV licensees were given the choice of choosing between conducting flash cuts — immediate, on-channel switchover to digital or receiving a companion channel for digital transmission.

Over the past seven years, the Media Bureau has granted 2980 construction permits for LPTV flash cuts to digital and 1354 construction permits for digital companion channels.

To date, 60 percent of the 7240 LPTV stations have moved towards digital transmission, the latest order said. According to the order, the commission has witnessed a rapid increase in the licensing of digital LPTV facilities, which it likely attributes to the completion of the full-power DTV transition and the availability of spectrum from that returned by full-power DTV stations with the completion of their analog switch off.