FCC targets mid-2012 for low-power digital TV conversion

Although they were given more time than their commercial counterparts, the time for a complete shutdown of analog TV broadcast from all low-power TV stations is near. The FCC is targeting mid-2012 for requiring all LPTV and translator stations to convert to digital transmissions.

The commission has approved a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking input on the LPTV digital transition, which also covers TV translators. The ruling would affect more than 2450 low-power TV stations, 520 Class A stations (LPTVs with interference protection) and about 4500 licensed translators serving mostly rural areas.

It outlines several issues related to the proposed transition. These include the 2012 hard date and a requirement to move all LPTVs and translators out of the 700MHz band. Another issue involves delegating authority to the agency’s Media Bureau to oversee LPTV’s flash cut.

A 5 percent fee set on subscription services for full-power broadcasters is also being considered for LPTVs. A rules modification is proposed to change an LPTV’s transmitter site of up to 30mi from the reference coordinates of the transmitting antenna. The notice also seeks feedback on allowing LPTVs to use the same emission mask as full-power stations.

As for the relocation of stations in the 700MHz band — those between channels 52 and 69 — the FCC said it believes “that it is now appropriate that the 700MHz band be cleared of low-power television broadcasters, both analog and digital, by a specific date so that new commercial wireless and public safety entities can continue to deploy their services.”

The commission said that less than 2 percent of LPTVs proposed building digital facilities in the 700MHz band — 10 by flash cut and 80 on digital companion channels. A transition date of Dec. 31, 2011, is proposed for these out-of-core stations.

“Displacement” applications would be due six months prior, on June 30, 2011. A freeze was imposed upon filing applications for new analog LPTVs and for modifications of stations from channels 52-69 as of Sept. 17.