Univision's digital dilemma

Spanish-language net sues FCC to change its Blanco, Texas, channel allocation

Univision last week took the FCC to court to switch its allocation for ch. 52 in Blanco, Texas, to ch. 17. The company paid $19 million for the allotment in 2000.

Because the new analog channel was auctioned after the allocation of digital frequencies, the Blanco station, unlike most stations, did not receive a paired allotment for digital operations.

Although other stations have single allotments, they typically are allowed to make a "flash" switch from analog to digital when they decide to make the transmission switch. Unfortunately for Univision, chs. 52 and higher are to be auctioned to non-broadcasters, and it cannot operate on its existing channel beyond 2006.

FCC officials acknowledge that the Univision dilemma is unique.

Univision wants assurances that it won't have to turn off ch. 52 until it has obtained an allotment at ch. 17.

The Spanish-language net bested 10 other bidders, including Post-Newsweek, Pappas Telecasting and Pegasus, in a government auction, which ended a roughly 15-year search for an owner to operate ch. 52 in Blanco.