TV stations begin choosing their permanent digital channels Jan. 27, when stations participating in the first round of selections must make their picks.
The FCC announced the deadline in a public notice released Christmas week.
Stations that must participate in the first round are those that currently have both their analog and digital assignments within the 2-51 channel range that will comprise the “TV core” after the transition to DTV is complete.
Stations that do not submit their post-transition channel request by Jan. 27 will be assigned one by the FCC. Station group owners must file a separate application for each full-power license or construction permit. Remaining stations will pick channels in two more rounds in summer 2005 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.
In addition to stations that have always operated on the higher channels in analog, others were assigned to operate there digitally on a temporary basis.