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Rules for Nightlight Service Include Broadcasters' Suggestions

Late Thursday (Jan. 15) the FCC released the Report and Order (FCC 09-2) implementing the analog Nightlight program and incorporating suggestions from broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service Television that should make it easier for broadcasters to participate.

The R&O is only 27 pages long, not including the list of stations automatically eligible to participate in the program.

The first improvement over the Notice of Proposed Rule Making reported earlier is an expanded list of stations eligible to become analog nightlights without the need to submit an interference analysis.

Stations worried about the extra month's power bill will be encouraged to see that the FCC allowed the DTV transition educational programming to be sponsored. While the sponsorship rules are strict, they should provide opportunities to offset the cost of an extra month's analog broadcasting. Stations would not need to generate separate programming streams for the analog nightlight in the event of an emergency.

The FCC's rules allow simulcasting emergency programming from the regular DTV program, even if it includes some other programming or commercials. The simulcasting is limited, however, to the time required to transmit the emergency information. This should come in handy if an emergency situation is being covered live and intermixed with other news, or if emergency information is being presented during a regular program. Remember that emergency announcements must be provided in a form available to persons with disabilities, so simply simulcasting a crawl with emergency messages may not be sufficient.

Finally, the process for becoming an analog nightlight has been simplified. While the FCC prefers stations apply to become nightlights using a Legal STA filed in CDBS, they recognized this may be a problem for smaller stations and allowed filing by simply sending an e-mail to nightlight@fcc.gov.

The e-mail should include:

*The sender’s name, title, phone number, and, if available, e-mail address and mobile telephone number;
*The licensee’s name;
*FCC Registration Number (FRN);
*Facility Identification Number;
*Call sign;
*City and state;
*Analog and digital channel numbers;
*Name, title, phone number and, if available, e-mail address and mobile telephone number of a contact person (if different from sender) who can provide more information about the station’s participation in the analog nightlight program.

The R&O states that the e-mail should include information about the station’s planned analog nightlight service, and whether it was planning to operate at reduced analog power, as well as the period of time analog nightlight service would be provided (if the planned service would end before March 19, 2009).

Stations that reduce power during their period of nightlight service should also notify the Commission of this change, either by filing another Legal STA or by sending an e-mail to nightlight@fcc.gov. The information provided in the emails will be entered into CDBS so that it will be available to the public.

Stations desiring to become analog nightlights must inform the FCC of their decision by Feb. 10, 2009, either by filing the Legal STA in CDBS or by email, as outlined above.

The R&O sets revised interference standards for stations and notes that the Commission will consider applications for nightlight stations that don't meet the spacing or strict interference standards if they would be the only nightlight in that market. Stations not on the list in markets with eligible nightlights were urged to support these nightlights, rather than attempting their own such service. Even stations on the list may lose their nightlight authority if interference results.

According to the R&O, the commission could terminate such nightlight activity if interference results.

“The Commission ultimately reserves the right to rescind any station’s authority to provide analog nightlight service, including the authority of any station listed on Appendix A. Among other things, we will weigh the benefits of the 30-day nightlight service against the interference caused to post transition digital service in making any such determination. We will rescind the authority of any station’s analog nightlight transmission that results in a valid complaint of harmful interference.”

The list of stations automatically eligible to participate in the program (Appendix A) includes a column labeled “Indicated interest in participating.” Some 28 station call signs were listed in that category.

Now that the final rules for analog nightlight service have been released, I expect that list to grow substantially. The Feb. 17 date, of course, will be moot if Congress extends the analog shutdown. More on that later in RF Report.

Read all of RF Reporthere.