Now accepting apps

The FCC has announced that it will accept applications for new and major change LPTV and translator stations. This is the first such window since 2000. All applications must specify digital facilities; applications for analog facilities will not be accepted. Applications for stations in rural areas could be submitted beginning Aug. 25. Applications for all other areas will be accepted beginning Jan. 25, 2010. Any analog LPTVs that did not pick up a digital companion channel when such facilities were made available in 2006 will now get another chance.

Rural area defined

To qualify as an applicant for a rural area, the transmitter site must be at least 75mi from the reference coordinates for all of the top 100 TV markets. This restriction goes away when phase 2 begins in January. From that date on, applications for new LPTVs, major changes and companion channels may be filed for any community with a site that meets the engineering criteria for such a facility. In both phases, applications will be accepted first-come, first-served, and will be cut off on a daily basis. If two or more conflicting applications are filed on the same day, they will be subjected to the FCC's auction process.

Use of in-core channels

Applications for new LPTVs and replacement translators must specify an in-core channel (i.e., channels 2 through 51). Incumbent analog LPTVs looking for digital companion channels should also try to specify an in-core channel; however, if nothing suitable is available, a channel between 52 and 59 may be used, but only if the applicant makes a special showing. Applicants proposing digital companion channels on channels 52-59 must notify all potentially affected 700MHz band wireless licensees of the spectrum comprising the proposed TV channel and the spectrum in their first-adjacent channels no later than 30 days prior to the submission of their applications.

Specifically, applicants must notify wireless licensees within whose licensed geographic boundaries a digital LPTV or TV translator station is proposed to be located. Notification is also required to co-channel and first-adjacent channel licensees whose geographic service area boundaries lie within 75mi and 50mi, respectively, of the proposed digital LPTV and TV translator station location.

Digital flash cuts

With regard to flash cuts, the FCC reminds LPTV and Class A licensees still operating in the analog mode that they can file on-channel digital conversion, i.e. flash-cut, applications at any time. The commission encourages analog LPTV licensees that are planning on filing flash-cut applications to do so before the FCC begins accepting first-come, first-served digital applications. Such applicants can thereby get in ahead of the expected onslaught of new applications, thereby avoiding substantial processing delays.

Filing procedures

The FCC filing fee for a new LPTV or translator station or for a major change in an existing station is $705. The FCC form required is Form 346. In order to deter speculators from participating in mass filing schemes using abbreviated engineering, upfront short-form applications will not be used. The commission wants to encourage legitimate nonspeculative applications and believes that this goal will be served if all applications have to include full technical showings, site certifications and community coverage showings. There are no FCC filing fees for flash-cut or digital companion channel applications.

Anyone with a plan to file an application of any type should line up an engineer and a suitable site as soon as possible. The commission is already accepting a limited number of applications for rural areas, but a large number of applications is expected to be filed beginning on the Jan. 25 start date for most other communities. Waiting even until Jan. 26 could be too late.

Harry C. Martin is a member of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, PLC.

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