FCC Begins Digital TV Transition Process; Initiates Freeze on New Applications
At its August 4th meeting, the Commission adopted a Report and Order (“Order”) intended to facilitate the digital TV (“DTV”) transition process. The Commission’s goal is to get all full power TV stations operating at full strength in a digital mode on one of the “core” channels, 2-51. Since November 2001, the Commission has allowed DTV stations to operate at reduced power on a limited operating schedule to facilitate construction of DTV facilities. However, this most recent Order adopted by the Commission will require all authorized DTV stations to be operating at full capacity by July 1, 2006.
This does not affect the statutory mandate requiring all stations with paired channels to turn in one of those channels by the later of Dec. 31, 2006, or when 85 percent of the TV households in a station’s market can receive DTV signals. However, this newly adopted schedule is the FCC’s attempt to ensure that the Dec. 31, 2006, deadline can be met.
The Commission’s Order establishes the following schedule:
- November 2004: All stations that have a DTV authorization must certify their technical information as well as their intent to replicate their analog signal and/or maximize their DTV facilities.
- December 2004: All stations that have two paired core channels (2-51) must elect which channel they wish to use following the DTV transition.
- July 2005: Stations that do not have a core channel assignment may elect a core channel made available following the December 2004 selection process.
- January 2006: Stations not yet assigned a DTV channel, or those that have been assigned a channel between 2 and 6, may elect a core DTV channel made available following the July 2005 selection process. Any conflicts remaining after this process will be resolved by the FCC.
- August 2006: The Commission will release its proposed “final” DTV Table of Allotments.
Those stations that have chosen to replicate and/or maximize their DTV channels will be required to construct those facilities according to the following schedule:
- July 1, 2005: Stations affiliated with the top four networks (ABC/CBS/NBC/Fox) in the top 100 markets.
- July 1, 2006: All other commercial and noncommercial stations.
To facilitate this process, the Commission has initiated a freeze on all TV applications (analog and DTV) that would result in a change of channel or community of license, or in a power increase. Pending applications filed prior to Aug. 3, 2004, are exempt from this freeze.
We will have more details when the Commission’s Order is released. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions concerning the DTV transition process.