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FCC Tackles DTV Translators, Low-Power Stations

Broadcasters have been worried for years about the lack of a DTV roadmap for the thousands translators, boosters and low-power stations that serve millions of Americans but whose route through the digital transition is unclear.

So at its August meeting, the commission began a process for setting a policy on how to treat these facilities, many of which bring TV to rural areas or ethnic urban enclaves. The FCC now wants comment on a regulatory framework it hopes will provide "flexible and affordable opportunities" to bring over-the-air DTV to those who until now have had no timeline for the end of analog.

The commission mentions several issues for discussion and makes several tentative conclusions. For example, the FCC figures digital translator stations should have the ability to retransmit the complete signals of DTV broadcasters, and seeks comment on policy for insertion of local content or other alteration of the DTV signal.

Also on tap is debate on how the newly digital facilities would potentially interfere with other services. The FCC proposes, for low-power and translator stations, the protected signal countour values the commission adopted for digital Class A TV stations.

According to the FCC, more than 4,700 translator stations are licensed, mostly in Western states, and about 2,100 low-power stations are also on-air, many providing the only local news and weather in their communities.

Comments are due 60 days after the FCC notice is published in the Federal Register, with replies due 30 days later.