WABC Fights To Save Ch. 7


ABC's flagship WABC-TV New York is still hoping to get channel 7 when it has to give up its analog spectrum and go all-digital. For the time being, however, it has elected ch. 45 as its primary digital channel, just in case.

The FCC has just issued DTV channel assignments for 1,713 stations in its first round of  DTV channel destination. They include 1,544 previously announced assignments, with the balance being resolved conflicts with other broadcasters.

But WABC was one of three stations in that first round whose future channel number remains up in the air.

It appears it will be 2009 before the station has to officially make the switch, though the FCC says it should have all the channels designated and ready by 2007.

WABC had told the FCC it wanted channel 7 going forward, and would give back 45, its current DTV channel, when the time came to pick one. But it received a "conflict letter" from a New Jersey public broadcasting station with which channel 7 would interfere at their respective power levels under the new digital assignments.

WABC is in the process of trying to negotiate a settlement, but in the meantime it had to designate ch. 45 as its future channel, while at the same time filing for a waiver of the interference separation requirement in case it can't strike a deal with the noncom to power down.

The FCC is waiting on those negotiations before deciding whether or not to grant the waiver.

Stations are going both ways on which channel number to carry into the DTV future.

The NBC-owned stations in New York and L.A., for example, are giving up their familiar 4 for the UHF-sounding 28 and 36, respectively, while ABC stations in the same markets are trying to hold on to their 7s, suggesting differing corporate philosophies.