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NBP Repacking Evaluation Freezes TV Channel Swaps

The FCC announced Tuesday that it was implementing a freeze on the filing of petitions for digital channel substitutions effective immediately. Many stations with VHF DTV channel assignments filed petitions to move to UHF channels after the previous freeze was lifted on May 30, 2008.

"To permit the Commission to evaluate its reallocation and repacking proposals and their impact on the Post-Transition Table of DTV Allotments," the FCC said in a notice, "the Media Bureau deems it appropriate to freeze the acceptance of additional rulemaking petitions to change channels at this time."

According to the commission, the freeze is the first in a "series of actions" aimed at achieving the National Broadband Plan (NBP) goal of reallocating 120 MHz from TV broadcasters and considering methodologies for repacking full-power TV channels "to increase efficiency of channel use."

The FCC Media Bureau said that it believed that stations wanting to change channels have had sufficient time to evaluate engineering options and to submit rule making petitions.

Petitions that were filed before the freeze was announced will continue to be processed.

While not mentioned in the FCC Public Notice, it's possible that one of the next steps could be a freeze on applications proposing any change in coverage area. After seeing how difficult it was to find both high-band VHF and/or UHF channels for DTV stations in some parts of the country after channels 52-69 were reallocated, it will be interesting to see how effective the FCC's repacking proposals are in these congested areas, and also what the impact will be on stations' interference free coverage.

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.