FCC Freezes LPTV Companion Channel Applications

The FCC's Media Bureau says that, effective immediately and on its own authority, it is freezing applications for the digital companion channels for low power TV stations and translators.

Those are the second channels that LPTVs and translators will need when they are required to make their own digital transition.

That comes as the FCC is about to close its broadcast incentive auction and starts repacking broadcasters in smaller spectrum space. LPTVs and translators are not protected in the repack.

The FCC says that because LPTVs and translators displaced in the repack will be filing displacement applications (for new spectrum homes) in a special window following the end of the auction and to make sure that the limited number of channels available go first to those displaced stations, it says it was appropriate to freeze new companion channel applications, particularly given that the FCC has postponed the LPTV DTV transition deadline until 12 months after the completion of the 39-month repack.

"[T]emporary postponement of the filing of applications for digital companion channels should not impact stations’ efforts to transition to digital." the bureau said. It will continue to process applications already in the hopper.

Because it called it a procedural change, the bureau said it was not subject to notice or comment, and it is also not waiting until 30 days after publication of the notice in the Federal Register because such a delay would be "impractical, unnecessary, and contrary to the public interest because it would undercut the purposes of the freeze."

"[T]his 'procedural' move by the FCC is welcomed," said Mike Gravino, director of the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition, "but we now have very serious issues still to be addressed related to our displacement and filing processes."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.