FCC issues rules for digital transition of LPTV, TV translator, Class A TV stations

The FCC has spelled out the rules by which LPTV stations, TV translator stations and Class A TV stations will make the transition from analog to digital service and left open the possibility that they may seek companion digital channels to ease the transition before relinquishing their analog spectrum.

The Report and Order adopted Sept. 9 at the commission’s regularly scheduled public meeting at FCC headquarters in Washington, DC, identified how spectrum will be used, laid out an administrative procedure for the transition, defined permissible uses, addressed interference issues and established rules to protect wireless and public safety frequency users. However, the FCC did not establish a deadline for LPTV stations, TV translator stations and Class A TV stations to make the switch to digital.

While the commission seeks an expeditious transition for LPTV and translator stations, certain issues related to the transition of full-power television stations must first be resolved. A final transition date for the low power and translator stations will be considered in the FCC’s Third DTV periodic review proceeding.

The FCC’s action permits LPTV and TV translator stations to flash-cut to digital service — a circumstance in which a station ceases its analog operation and immediately begins transmitting digital service on the same channel. Many regard flash-cutting to be less than desirable because it would cut off viewers without digital tuners and sets. Existing LPTV and TV translator stations wishing to flash-cut must seek applications from the commission, which will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Mutually exclusive applications will be resolved by auction.

LPTV, TV translator and Class A TV stations seeking a companion digital station will be able to do so. The commission will announce the filing window at a later date. Subsequent to that, the commission will setup a digital low-power filing window not limited to incumbents.

The report and order requires digital translator stations to rebroadcast the DTV signal of full-power stations and digital LPTV stations to use some of their digital spectrum allotment to transmit free video programming to the public. LPTV stations may also offer other services with their remaining spectrum on the same basis as DTV broadcasters. The FCC adopted for digital stations in the LPTV service the protected contour values for digital Class A stations. For digital stations in the LPTV and Class A services, the FCC order replaced the current contour protection methodology with the DTV interference prediction methodology.

Highlights of spectrum usage for digital LPTV and TV translator stations include:

  • VHF channels 2-13, inclusive — available for digital LPTV and TV translator operations;
  • UHF channels 14-51 with the exception of channel 37 — available for digital LPTV and TV translator operations;
  • UHF channels 52-69 available for digital LPTV and TV translator operations on a limited basis;
  • Existing LPTV and TV translators stations on UHF channels 52-69 may flash-cut to digital operations;
  • UHF channels 52-59 for companion digital channels is limited to stations that can certify the unavailability of in-core channels (2-51);
  • UHF channels 60-69 for companion channels is prohibited;
  • UHF channel 52-69 applicants must notify public safety and commercial wireless licensees before filing applications;
  • Flash-cutters on UHF channels 63, 64, 68 and 69 must first coordinate with regional and state entities representing public safety licensees.

For more information, visit www.fcc.gov.

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