FCC Establishes Digital LPTV Service; Will Permit Paired DTV Channels
Also at its public meeting today, the Commission authorized the initiation of a digital TV service for low power TV (“LPTV”) stations and translators, including Class A TV stations. The Commission declined to authorize DTV for TV boosters at this time. The digital LPTV rules will mirror the analog rules, including retention of the current power limits, but will allow LPTV stations and translators, like full power TV stations, to air ancillary and supplementary services in the digital stream. (The main digital stream must continue to provide video programming.) There will also be a mandatory DTV conversion date for LPTV and translators. Although the mandatory conversion date has not yet been set, the Commission anticipates that it will be later than the transition deadline set for full power stations. In the meantime, LPTV stations and translators will be able to convert to digital at any time, once these rules become effective.
The FCC intends to open a filing window for incumbent LPTV and translator operators to apply for low power paired DTV channels. Sometime after that, the FCC will allow any party (whether or not a current licensee) to apply for new digital LPTV and translator allotments on a first come, first served basis. Any mutually exclusive proposals not resolved by the parties will be subject to auction. Although the Commission will allow LPTV stations and translators to convert to digital on their current channel allotments, those who are operating on Channels 60-69 must vacate those channels by the end of the full power DTV transition. Stations on Channels 52-59 may remain there if no lower channel is available. In any event, stations operating on Channels 52-69 will be considered secondary to wireless and public service licensees operating on those channels.