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The second FCC review of the DTV transition begins

In action taken on January 14th, the FCC began its second new review of the analog to digital television conversion this month. In the FCC's Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), the commission is seeking comment on whether any adjustments to the rules and policies are needed to ensure that the migration to digital television and the recovery of spectrum at the end of the transition serves the public interest.

As part of the first periodic review, which began in March 2000, the FCC revised its rules and policies by adopting modified build-out requirements enabling stations to go on-the-air with lower-powered and therefore less expensive facilities. This provided broadcasters with additional time to gain experience with digital operations before being required to replicate or maximize their service areas and select their post-transition channels. The FCC said it would set new deadlines for channel election replication and maximization in its next DTV periodic review.

With this latest NPRM on DTV, the FCC is seeking comment on new channel election replication and maximization requirements. After the transition, broadcast television services will be limited to a “core spectrum” consisting of current television channels two through 51 (54-698 MHz). In the NPRM, the FCC proposes May 1, 2005, as the channel election deadline for television broadcast licensees with two in-core assigned channels.

The FCC also proposes to end replication and maximization interference protection for the top four network affiliates (ABC CBS Fox and NBC) in markets one through 100 as of July 1, 2005; and for all other commercial DTV licensees as well as noncommercial DTV licensees as of July 1, 2006. The NPRM also asks whether the FCC should adopt an intermediate signal coverage requirement beyond a broadcaster’s current obligation to cover its community of license.

Comments are due April 14. The FCC's replies are due May 14.

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