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MSTV and NAB Ask FCC to Allow Early Analog Shutdown

As described in last week’s RF Report, stations planning to use their existing analog channel, especially if it is a VHF channel, are likely to face problems replicating the FCC antenna patterns, making it impossible to match their allotted coverage from their existing analog antennas. Stations moving to a new channel will have to find space for a third antenna if they don’t shut down their existing analog or digital transmissions before the February 2009 transition.

Even stations staying on their current DTV channel may have to move the antenna to the position now occupied by an analog antenna to achieve their allotted coverage. The Reply Comments of MSTV and NAB in the Third Periodic Review outlines how the FCC can minimize disruption in DTV service to viewers in the final stage of the transition.

The MSTV and NAB reply comments urge the FCC to allow stations to discontinue analog service beginning Aug. 17, 2008, with notice to the FCC within 15 days thereafter. Stations should be allowed to transition to their final DTV channels six months before the Feb. 17, 2009, deadline, subject to interference limitations. MSTV and NAB recommended allowing stations to discontinue operation on their current DTV channels so they can focus on building their final DTV channels. They also proposed giving stations 12 months after Feb. 17, 2009, to construct their final DTV facilities, because in many cases this will require removal of the analog antennas.

The coverage and antenna patterns in the DTV Table of Allotments are based on facilities that had to protect existing analog TV stations and conversion of contours, in some cases, from VHF to UHF back to VHF. As a result, they often don’t reflect practical VHF antenna patterns, nor do they provide the best signal to DTV viewers possible in an environment without analog TV stations.

MSTV and NAB recommend procedures for expedited processing of applications for final DTV facilities. “The commission should accept and process maximization applications as promptly as possible to facilitate stations’ ability to plan their final DTV service,” they wrote.

MSTV and NAB supported the FCC’s recommended 0.5 percent interference standard, but added that the FCC should use the table facilities as a baseline in order to ensure that broadcasters have sufficient flexibility to adjust their final DTV facilities. They were concerned that MVPDs (multichannel video program distributors) wouldn’t be ready to handle DTV signals.

“The Commission should require MVPDs to certify that they are prepared to receive and retransmit post-transition digital broadcast signals,” NAB and MSTV. “The commission should monitor MVPD’s compliance to ensure that the public experiences no service disruptions.”

See the Reply Comments of MSTV and NAB for references to previously filed comments and details on the recommendations.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.