KLCS and KCET to Share Spectrum in Los Angeles

Doug Lung

The Board of KCETLink, licensee of public TV station KCET, and the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, licensee of PBS member station KLCS, approved a memorandum of understanding to move forward with a channel-sharing partnership in an effort to participate in the FCC's incentive auction. The two stations will share one 6 MHz channel, and the 19.39 Mbps of bandwidth available.

The last time I was in Los Angeles I noticed KLCS was running four standard-definition channels; KCET had one 720p HD channel and three standard-definition channels. Since the programming will be different on all channels and is unlikely to include sports, I can see this working, although I expect there will be times, assuming both stations keep all their program streams, where perceptive viewers may notice some artifacts. By using the latest MPEG-2 encoding technology with statistical multiplexing, the bandwidth can be assigned to the program stream needing it most. Extra bandwidth is often needed during transitions from scene to scene, but if the programming on the eight subchannels is different they shouldn't have a problem giving up bandwidth to the program needing it the most.

KCET currently transmits on UHF Channel 28 with an ERP of 220 kW. KLCS transmits on UHF Channel 41 and has an ERP of 1,000 kW. The station's announcement didn't say which one will give up their channel.

Los Angeles has three public TV stations and I appreciate that obtaining funding to keep all three on the air is difficult. When I'm passing through Los Angeles I enjoy catching programs on all three stations—KOCE, KLCS and KCET. I hope this spectrum sharing agreement will allow those programs to continue!

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler commented, “I’m pleased Los Angeles stations KLCS and KCET have reached an agreement to share spectrum following the first-ever incentive auction. When I visited KLCS last spring, I was impressed that channel-sharing worked so seamlessly and opened the door to new business models for broadcasters. It’s a compelling opportunity for broadcasters to continue their existing business on a shared channel, and take home a check for the spectrum they relinquish in the incentive auction. It is my hope that other broadcasters give it careful consideration as well.”

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.