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Freeze Lifted on Class A Optimization Applications

In a move long awaited by low-power and Class A broadcasters, the FCC is lifting its four-year freeze on maximization and expansion applications from Class A stations.

The freeze—which also applied to full-power broadcasters until a few months ago—was put in place to provide a stable database during the channel election process and the initial processing of applications for full power stations’ post-transition digital facilities.

The FCC will begin accepting the applications Aug, 4.

“The freeze hit the Class A operators pretty hard,” said Greg Herman, vice president for technology at the Community Broadcasters Association, which represents low-power, Class A and translator stations. “But once we saw the stabilization of the [allotment] table, we had been requesting that the FCC reconsider allowing some folks to optimize their stations.”

He said that under the freeze, some basic moves, such as small changes in antenna locations, were prohibited.

The move will enable Class A stations to apply to enter core channels and more easily get to work on their own digital transitions. For now, there is no deadline for low-power and Class A stations to cease analog transmissions. It will also make way for low-power stations to start moving to Class A status, which brings new requirements, including three hours of local programming weekly, in return for status as primary—not secondary—users of their frequencies.

Amy Brown, executive director and secretary of CBA, said the group was in Washington in July lobbying the commission to lift the freeze, among other issues.

“Our industry needs to go digital, we recognize that,” said Herman. “But first we need to do this.”

Brown said CBA will discuss the path to digital at its October convention and is hoping the FCC will begin a rulemaking procedure on the issue by then.