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NAB/MSTV Webcast Focuses on DTV Channel Election

The NAB/MSTV Digital Decisions Webcast on channel election and repacking extended past the two hours it was allotted Thursday afternoon. Interest in the Webcast was high (NAB reports more than 400 broadcasters tuned in) as TV licensees were required to file their DTV certification of intent to replicate or maximize their DTV facility, maintain an existing authorized facility that's somewhere in between, or, if these cases didn't apply, pick one of the other options allowed on FCC Form 381 the next day.

After a presentation outlining the procedures and timeline for generating the final DTV Table of Allotments outlined in the Second DTV Periodic Review Report and Order, a panel including three FCC staff members and experts from NAB and MSTV took questions by email from participants.

Several of the questions reflected the concern many in station management have that if their station does not return to their analog channel, they would lose the ability to brand their station using the channel number. They were assured that the PSIP data identifies the channel being received on the DTV set and it has no relation to the digital channel the station is transmitting on and that the rules protect their branding based on the analog channel, even if another station begins broadcasting on that channel in the future. The new station on the channel would have to pick another major channel identifier that would not conflict with those of other stations in the market.

There was discussion oft the requirement to transmit TSID information on the analog channel. Reading the Second Periodic Review Report and Order, it was easy to assume, as I did in my report on the Report and Order, that analog stations would be required to start transmitting TSID data by the February 2005 deadline. During the Webcast, the language in the Report and Order was interpreted to mean that the analog TSID information only had to be sent if the station was sending other program information in the analog vertical interval data. Stations that weren't transmitting a program guide or station ID in XDS would not have to begin transmitting an analog TSID. Note that the requirement to transmit the correct TSID in the DTV stream remains. To find a station's TSID, both for analog and digital transmission (they are different), see the Transport Stream Identifier Table.

Some VHF stations have not been able to fully replicate their 1998 Table of Allotments 1,000 kW UHF replication coverage area because they have mounted their DTV antennas below their analog antennas. FCC staff participating in the Webcast said the stations that have this problem could request an extension of the requirement to fully build out their replication facilities by notifying the FCC prior to the July 2005 deadline.

If you did not have a chance to attend the Webcast, don't despair! The Webcast has been archived. To access it visit, register, and you should be given access to it. Although the Q&A was an important part of the Webcast, if you are interested in the presentation before the Q&A, the slides are available on the MSTV web site.