The FCC released the Broadcast Station Totals as of Dec. 30, 2012 last week and the figures show only a slight change in the number of licensed full-power TV stations (1,781 as compared 1,783 at the end of 2011). There were two fewer commercial VHF TV licenses and one fewer commercial UHF TV license. These were offset by a new educational UHF TV license. The number of licensed Class A TV stations continued to drop: from 481 at the end of 2011 to 454 (a six percent drop) as the FCC demoted Class A TV stations that failed to meet the relevant Part 73 requirements. The number of licensed low-power TV stations dropped a bit less (three percent), from 2,047 to 1,984 (1587 UHF and 397 VHF).
Low-power FM licenses dropped from 838 to 809, as did the number of FM translator licenses (6,099 to 6,075), compared to year-end 2011. The number of UHF TV translators was one of the few areas showing an increase in licenses, growing from 2,997 to 3,015 in the past year. VHF TV transmitter licenses decreased slightly, from 1,214 to 1,156.
It seems unlikely that LPTV stations will be protected in the planned repacking. While the impact will be greatest in densely populated areas, it will be interesting to see if a downward trend in LPTV licenses accelerates as station owners consider the loss of their channel and ability to broadcast when the repacking is completed.
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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.
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