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NTIA Begins Grant Program for Continued Analog LPTV

Unlike America’s full-power television broadcasters, low-power, Class A and translator stations do not have to cease their analog transmissions come Feb. 18, 2009. But the full-power analog signals that some of these stations receive and repeat will disappear.

To help some low-power broadcasters continue operations, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) this week began accepting applications in a grant program to help the stations buy digital-to-analog conversion equipment so that they can receive full-power digital signals and rebroadcast them in analog.

The program gives qualifying stations up to $1,000 for the equipment. Nonprofit stations, and those serving rural areas with fewer than 10,000 viewers, have priority under the program.

More details on the program are in the Federal Register and in a backgrounder NTIA presented to the National Translators Association in June.

The program applies only to stations that receive the full-power broadcasters’ regular over-the-air signal; stations that receive the signals another way, such as with microwave links, via satellite or over fiber, do not qualify.

But they may qualify for another grant program in the works at NTIA, the Low-Power Television and Translator Upgrade Program, which will help low-power stations upgrade from analog to digital broadcasting.

NTIA is encouraging all stations, even if not eligible for this LPTV Digital-to-Analog Conversion Program, to complete an electronic application form which requests information to assist NTIA in planning for the Upgrade Program.

Stations that do not retransmit the digital signal of a full-power station, or those receiving signals from satellite or via a “daisy chain” from another analog translator, may be eligible, according to NTIA.

The retransmission issue is just one challenge facing low-power, Class A, and translator station as the transition approaches. The broadcasters are concerned about an FCC freeze on applications to change or upgrade facilities, as well as consumer confusion about the presence of the industry’s continued analog broadcasts after full-power broadcasters cease analog transmissions.

Read more about the challenges facing low-power broadcasters in the Nov. 7 issue of TV Technology.