Broadcasters Ask FCC To Expand Number Of Stations Eligible For 'Nightlight' Signal

Broadcasters Ask FCC To Expand Number Of Stations Eligible For 'Nightlight' Signal

Broadcasters have asked the FCC to expand the number of stations eligible to continue an "analog nightlight" signal for 30 days past the Feb. 17 DTV transition date, as well as streamlining the process for applying to remain on the air.

They also want the freedom to sell the educational/emergency information on that analog nightlight to underwriters similar to those on noncommercial TV.

The FCC is required by Congress to vote on an implementation regime for the nightlight service by Jan. 15, so comments are already due on a proposal that was only outlined Christmas Eve.

In its comments, The National Association of Broadcasters (joined by the Association for Multiple Service Television) was in the unusual position of arguing for relaxed interference standards for TV stations. They recognized that, and said it did not change their stance on interference to TV stations in other instances. But they also said it was a unique circumstance. "Unfortunately, while the list proposed by the Commission in the Notice protects stations from all interference, it may not allow enough stations to participate in the program," they said.

NAB, joined by the Association for Maximum Service Television, pointed out that as the FCC has set the interference protections, "only 136 out of 210 television markets" could have a nightlight station. "Moreover, under the proposed list only one station in the New York television market would be eligible to participate," NAB argues.

NAB says stations on channels 2-6 should be alloweed to remain on. That is the majority of analog channels, it points out, and with relatively few digital channels in that spectrum, "there will be few chances for either co-channel or adjacent-channel interference." They also argued for loosening adjacent channel separations generally to allow for more stations to qualify.

"We recognize that employing this standard may allow more interference to occur than the Commission’s current proposal," they told the FCC. "Nonetheless, the potential for interference at the outer edges of a station’s service area must be balanced against the need for DTV and emergency information throughout a station’s entire market," they argued, noting that that the interference would be temporary and easily corrected by having the nightlight station reduce power.

They also asked the FCC to waive a requirement that stations file an update of their DTV transition status, saying it would be financial disincentive for what is a voluntary program.

Also on the issue of finances, broadcasters want the FCC to allow them to obtain sponsorships for the continued analog programming.

The FCC has proposed confining the analog programming to public service and emergency messages, specifically excluding commercials. But NAB and MSTV ask that the FCC not interpret that to exclude the kind of sponsorship messages currently common on noncommercial stations, pointing out that it will cost up to $15,000 to keep that analog nightlight burning.

"Although we agree with the Commission that Section 2(a) of the statute limits program material to 'only' public safety and DTV transition information," they said, "the Commission should not interpret the statute to prohibit stations that may wish to defray the cost of maintaining analog service for an additional 30 days with a 'brought to you by' or 'sponsored by' or 'in partnership with' visual identification during the 'Analog Nightlight' program."

Broadcasters also want the freedom to air educational videos about DTV-to-analog converter box set-up produced (which essentially means sponsored) by individual manufacturers.