Martin seeks help for low-power television stations

FCC chairman Kevin Martin has outlined a series of steps he wants the industry to undertake to keep the nation’s more than 7300 low-power analog television stations on the air after next February’s analog shutdown.

In a letter to broadcasters and consumer electronics executives, the chairman said for many of the low-power stations, including Class A stations and TV translators, analog broadcasting will continue for some time after the shutdown.

Martin noted that many of the DTV-to-analog converter boxes the government has made eligible for its subsidy program don’t pass through analog signals, and viewers will not get low-power signals. Rural and minority areas, in some cases, get their only local news, weather and public affairs programming through such low-power outlets.

Martin asked that broadcasters voluntarily partner with low-power stations to carry some of those stations on their excess digital capacity. He also asked cable and DBS operators to carry those stations if they have the bandwidth available.

The FCC chairman asked converter box manufacturers to add an analog pass-through function to boxes and for electronics retailers to stock at least one such box in all of their stores. He also asked the stores to publicize the pass-through feature.

The FCC has proposed that all low-power stations transition to digital by 2012.