FCC Delays Digital Transition Deadlines for Low Power TV

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By Lydia Beyoud

Oct. 14 — The Federal Communications Commission said it will delay the Sept. 1, 2015, analog-to-digital transition deadline for low power television stations and TV translator stations in an effort to minimize disruption for LPTV stations during the incentive auction repacking process.

The FCC issued a third notice of notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and an accompanying public notice of the delayed deadline Oct. 10, seeking comment on several measures to finalize conversion of LPTV stations and TV translator stations to digital service and facilitate repacking.

The FCC said many LPTV stations would probably be displaced as a result of the incentive auction of broadcast TV licenses tentatively slated for mid-2015. Unlike Class A broadcast TV stations, the coverage areas and populations served by LPTV service and TV translator stations aren't protected under the Spectrum Act.

LPTV stations serve small and rural communities and are considered a means for local broadcasters to enter the marketplace. TV translator stations retransmit programs and signals of TV broadcast stations.

In addition to extending the digital transition deadline, the FCC proposed transition relief for such services by adopting channel-sharing by and between LPTV and TV translator stations and creating a “digital-to-digital replacement translator” service for full power stations that experience losses in their pre-auction service areas.

The NPRM (MB Docket No. 03-185) also seeks comments on:

• the proposed use of the incentive auction optimization model to assist LPTV and TV translator stations displaced by the auction and repacking process to identify new channels;

• whether to permit digital LPTV stations to operate analog FM radio-type services on an ancillary or supplementary basis; and

• whether to eliminate the requirement that TV receivers include analog tuners.

The comment deadline is 30 days after publication of the Federal Register notice. The reply comment deadline is 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Extended Deadlines

The agency's public notice suspended the expiration dates and construction deadlines for all outstanding unexpired LPTV and TV translator stations construction permits. The action is effective immediately, pending final action in the rulemaking proceeding.

The deadline suspension is meant to reduce filing burdens for the targeted services and conserve FCC resources “by avoiding the need to address hundreds of individual extension requests pending final action in the Commission's rulemaking proceeding,” the agency said.

The construction deadlines of permits for new digital LPTV and TV translator stations would be subject to the final transition date adopted by the FCC.

“This proposed action would also have the effect of treating these permittees similarly to the permittees of transitioning LPTV and TV translator stations,” the FCC said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at lbeyoud@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

Text of the third NPRM is at http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2014/db1010/FCC-14-151A1.pdf.

Text of the public notice on suspended deadlines is at http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2014/db1010/FCC-14-150A1.pdf.