B'casters Continue Fight vs. Second Channel for Low-Power DTV


Full-power broadcasters continue to oppose a Federal Communications Commission plan to grant lower-power stations a second channel for digital TV during the transition from analog.

The National Association of Broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service Television told the FCC last week that granting a second channel to LPTV outlets, translators and boosters would create more congestion and interference on already crowded TV spectrum.

"Interference to full-power DTV service–already a problem based on existing services alone–has the potential to throw the transition off course," NAB and MSTV wrote in comments to the FCC. The trade groups for full-power broadcasters urged the FCC to require low-powers to make a "flash cut" from analog to digital on their current channels rather than letting them offer both services simultaneously during the transition.

In August, the FCC tentatively concluded that lower-power stations should receive a second channel while the transition to DTV is under way but said a final decision would be made after a review of public comments. Rules for conversion of full-power stations have been in place since 1997; none had yet been set for LPTV and satellites serving rural communities missed by full-power stations or carrying programming targeted at minority groups and some urban neighborhoods.

LPTVs are independent stations but have smaller coverage areas and generally lower interference protections than full-powers. Satellite stations usually serve either as translators, rebroadcasting signals to rural communities outside a primary station’s coverage area, or as boosters, filling in coverage gaps created by terrain and other factors. The Community Broadcasters Association, which represents low-powers, said it was "disappointed" by the NAB/MSTV insistence on a flash cut. Such a requirement would be "suicidal," CBA said, because fewer and fewer viewers would tune in as viewers buy digital sets.