FCC Freezes LPTV, Translator Applications In Rural Areas

The Federal Communications Commission's Media Bureau Thursday issued a freeze, effetive immediately, on applications for new digital low-power TV stations and translator stations in rural areas, while it determines how it will have to reconfigure the TV band to make room for wireless broadband.

Translators are low-power stations that retransmit the signals of full-powers to areas that can't get a clear signal, often due to distance or terrain.

It could be a while before applications are accepted again. The FCC said that only after it finished its broadband rulemaking proceedings will it "consider" a date for lifting a freeze.

The commission began accepting applications in August 2009, but after the National Broadband Plan was released in March 2009, the FCC launched an effort to find 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband, including getting 120 MHz from broadcasters, which will likely require "repacking" of full-power TV stations into a smaller spectrum allotment.

So as not to have to deal with the extra moving piece of applications for new low-power stations in that band, the FCC will put that process on hold, as well as applications for major changes to existing LPTVs and translators.

The FCC plans to launch its spectrum-reclamation rulemaking proposals at its Nov. 30 public meeting, including making the VHF spectrum more attractive so broadcasters won't mind being "repacked" to those lower channels that are not as conducive to DTV reception as UHF channels. That represents something of a reversal of the beachfront status of the VHF vs. UHF during the analog era.

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.