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FCC Denies LPTV Digital Conversion Rule Change Request

Acting on petitions to reconsider its Second Report and Order for conversion of existing analog low-power TV operations to digital, the FCC has denied requests to delay or eliminate altogether the mandatory facilities change.

In addressing these petions, the FCC issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order (FCC 13-126) which examined and explained the reasons for denying such petitions.

One of the petitioners was Signal, a licensee of two low-power televisions stations operating on Channel 6 that are essentially used as FM radio stations.Signal argued that no hard DTV conversion deadline is necessary “or that at the very least any deadline should be fixed to the later of Sept. 1, 2015 or 12 months after final adoption of a Broadband Plan.”

The company further argued that work on the National Broadband Plan may not be complete by the Sept. 1, 2015 LPTV transition date and that low-power operators may be required “to build out digital facilities twice, or build a digital facility only to find it cannot be operated at all.”

The FCC said its decision to deny the requests from Signal and other petitioners to delay or eliminate the Sept. 1, 2015 deadline “is made without prejudice to the Commission's ability to consider making adjustments to the timing of the low-power transition in that proceeding as the Commission develops the schedule for holding the incentive auction and implementation of the subsequent repacking.”

The FCC also denied reconsideration of the Dec. 31, 201l “out-of-core” transition date, nothing that stations with out-of-core channels had 14 years of advance notice they would have to clear the band.

The National Translator Association had argued in its petition for reconsideration that the Dec. 31, 2011, final date for operation of an analog out-of-core LPTV or TV translator station is “unworkable” and “enforcement of this deadline will have a serious adverse impact on the public.”

After explaining all of the notices given out-of-core licensees, the MO&O stated: “Thus, for many years out-of-core channel low power television broadcasters have known that their use of the 700 MHz band was authorized only on an interim basis, that their out-of-core facilities would ultimately be displaced by new wireless licensees, and that shortly after the completion of the full power digital conversion they would be forced to vacate these channels and find a permanent in-core channel.”

Finally, the MO&O noted that contrary to NTA's claim, FCC actions did not force “hundreds” of translator stations off the air.

Two of the entities requesting extension of the date, Lake of Woods and Voyaguers, received a quick grant of their in-core applications and both completed construction and began operating their new facilities prior to the deadline. Approximately 100 out-of-core channel stations never sought an in-core channel and these licenses were canceled.

NPR (National Public Radio) and the Hammett & Edison engineering firm sought clarification of the Commission's policy with respect to interference protection between low-power TV stations and NCE FM radio stations.

In its MO&O, the FCC addressed this by stating “We [the Commission] confirm that, as Hammett & Edison and NPR observe, our current rules do not distinguish between primary NCE FM stations on different adjacent channels in terms of the protection that secondary low-power television stations must provide to NCE FM stations. We affirm our decision to increase the maximum power for VHF low-power television stations. Because of their secondary status, digital low-power television stations historically have not been permitted to cause interference to, and must accept interference from, full-service television stations, certain land mobile radio operations and other primary services. Therefore, we grant Hammett & Edison’s and NPR’s Petitions to the extent that we clarify that, regardless of their power level, low power television stations may not cause interference to a primary service such as NCE FM stations.”

The FCC otherwise denied the Hammett and Edison and NPR petitions regarding interference between NCE FM stations and TV stations on Channel 6.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.