On Aug. 22, the FCC imposed an immediate freeze on applications for new stations and improvements in existing stations on Channel 51, currently the uppermost TV channel. The freeze was imposed at the request of the wireless industry, which wants interference protection for future wireless operators on 698MHz to 704MHz, which is adjacent to Channel 51 (692MHz to 698MHz).
Channel 52 has been auctioned within the wireless world, and the winning bidders do not want high-powered TV stations operating next to their lower-powered wireless devices. Wireless advocates asked the FCC to, in effect, create a guard band on the TV side of the spectrum divide rather than on the wireless side by stopping any growth on Channel 51. These requests resulted in the freeze imposed in August.
Fixed database priority
While the FCC is considering how much of the TV band it can rededicate to wireless, it has already frozen growth in the entire TV band. No new applications or channel changes are allowed for full-power stations, and no new applications are being accepted for low-power TV stations on any channel. All of this is to ensure a fixed database when the FCC receives congressional authority to incentive auctions and channel repacking. The August freeze signals the FCC's determination that sanitizing Channel 51 is a higher priority over having a fixed database.
Full power TV stations on Channel 51 are invited to move to any lower channels they can find. Their rulemaking petitions to amend the TV Table of Allotments, and their applications for construction permits to change channels, will get expedited treatment. On the other hand, pending applications for new LPTV stations on Channel 51, most of which were filed in 2009 and 2010, and were being processed up to now, have been frozen. Although, they were given a 60-day window, ending Oct. 21, to file channel change applications. Such window applications will be treated as minor changes.
Moving not mandatory
Existing full- and low-power stations authorized on Channel 51 may continue to operate undisturbed — at least until the FCC decides on permanent rules governing the wireless-Channel 51 interface. Incumbent TV-51 stations will be permitted to file minor change applications, but only if they do not propose to cover any area they did not cover before.
Only TV-51 affected
The relaxed rules governing frequency changes are limited to Channel 51 stations and applicants. All other television licensees remain subject to all old processing rules. Thus, full-power stations on channels other than 51may not change channels, and pending LPTV applications for new stations on other channels will not be accepted. But, unlike Channel 51 stations, licensees on other channels may file for minor changes even if they propose an expanded service area.
Those in limbo
The Commission's initiative raises some important questions. Will LPTV stations that want to abandon Channel 51 now be allowed to claim displacement status and be eligible for priority over pending applications for new LPTV stations or changes in existing stations? Will Class A stations be treated any differently from LPTV stations in this context? Will frequency-change amendments to pending Channel 51 LPTV applications take priority over pending applications on lower channels? What about granted but un-built construction permits for new LPTV stations on Channel 51? May they build on 51? And finally, if they prefer to move, may they do so as a minor change the way pending applicants are permitted to do?
- On or before Dec. 1, 2011, Noncommercial TV and Class A stations in Alabama and Georgia must file their biennial ownership reports.
- On or before Dec. 1, 2011, commercial TV and Class A TV stations in all states and territories must file biennial ownership reports reflecting their ownership as of Oct. 1, 2011.
- By Dec. 1, 2011 TV and Class A TV stations in the following locations must place 2011 EEO reports in public files and post them on their websites: Alabama Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont.
Harry C. Martin is a member of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, PLC.
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