FM Group Requests Emergency Freeze on TV Filings

The Broadcast Maximization Committee (BMC), in a communication to the FCC dated Aug. 5, has formally requested an "emergency freeze" on filings for operation of digital low power television transmitters, including translators, on either Channel 5 or 6.

The BMC is a Gaithersburg, Md.-based group of consulting engineers and other broadcasting industry representatives that was formed to promote the use of that part of the spectrum (76-88 MHz) to accommodate low power FM, non-commercial and AM broadcasters in the post-DTV transition environment.

It is concerned that the FCC’s recent Public Notice (June 29) announcing a window for filing applications for DTV low power and translator operations could jeopardize the group’s proposal for expansion of the present U.S. FM band downward to create more room for radio broadcasters.

The BMC’s letter to the FCC’s Secretary, Marlene H. Dortch, noted that the FCC is still requiring non-commercial educational FM stations, which operate at the lower end of the current 88-108 MHz FM band, to protect Channel 6 television operations "until further notice." The BMC termed this "disparate treatment," as new LPTV and translator applicants were not required to provide such protection. The BMC letter further stated that it was "likely that new digital television stations on Channel 6 could cause interference to existing FM stations" due to the FCC’s DTV emission mask requiring that signals only be attenuated by 47 dB within 500 kHz of a TV transmitter’s band edge.

The group also noted that in the post-DTV transition television world, "the spectrum for Channel 6 is widely available across the country" and that "it is expected that many [television] applicants will be submitting applications for this channel in the hope that they can operate the audio in an analog mode for some period of time." The BMC’s letter said that while it was outside the scope of their current emergency freeze request, they did encourage the commission to rule on the legality of such "Franken-FM" broadcasting activities.

The BMC’s emergency freeze request called for a halt to filings for Channel 5 and 6 TV applications beginning on Aug. 25, and continuing until the FCC makes a decision on the use of this spectrum for FM broadcasting purposes.