LPTV station might be coming to a DTV subchannel near you

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin called on full-power broadcasters to help ameliorate a bump in the DTV transition Feb. 12 by making their DTV subchannels available for digital retransmission of LPTV stations when possible.

The request grew out of a concern that only a handful of digital-to-analog converter boxes that qualify for the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) $40 reimbursement coupon have the ability to pass through NTSC signals. LPTV stations, TV translator stations and Class A stations have just begun their DTV conversion and will continue to transmit analog television for the foreseeable future. With no analog pass through, the converter boxes will add a layer of complication for consumers if they wish to continue viewing LPTV, translator and Class A stations.

In a letter to David Rehr, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), as well as the heads of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition and the Satellite Industry Association, Martin asked for full-power broadcasters “to voluntarily partner with low-power stations and clear their signals to the extent they have excess digital capacity.”

“This could be accomplished by using a portion of the digital capacity allocated to the full-power broadcaster for digital operations and the full power broadcaster’s existing facilities,” the letter said. Martin called on the NAB to facilitate such arrangements and said that full power stations choosing to strike such deals “should be made whole, and reimbursed for their costs.”

The letter also called on DBS operators and cable systems “to offer expanded carriage” of LPTV stations voluntarily “where they have capacity.” Consumer electronics makers and retailers, too, should play a part, the letter said.

Martin called on manufacturers to build analog pass through into all of their converter boxes and that “at a minimum, all manufacturers produce and make widely available to the public at least one box that is able to pass through analog signals.”

The NAB was still studying the proposal as of Feb. 14 and had no public comment, according to association executive VP Dennis Wharton.

For more information, visit www.fcc.gov.