FCC Gives Channel-Choosers More Time

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TV stations have an extra 14 days to begin picking their permanent digital-TV channels. The Federal Communications Commission Tuesday extended the deadline for the first round of digital channel selections until Feb. 10.

Stations that must participate in the first round are those currently having both their analog and digital assignments on channels 2-51, the range that will be left to TV after the business goes all-digital and stations return their old analog frequencies to the government.

Any first-round station that doesn’t submit a request by Feb. 10 will be assigned a channel by the FCC.

Other stations will pick channels in two additional rounds, next summer and winter 2006. The selection process is required because there will soon be 18 fewer channels available for TV than there are today and the FCC needs an orderly way to free up enough channels in the core spectrum so that one is available to every station.

The government plans to auction channels 52-69 to wireless companies and other new users over the next few years.

The extra time for the first round was granted at the request of the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers.

The engineers argued that consultants need more time to process broadcasters’ requests for help predicting interference likely to be created by their various choices. The extra time also would give stations more time to negotiate channel arrangements without the need for the FCC to resolve interference conflicts.

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