The FCC's Media Bureau is seeking comment on whether analog LPTV stations should be able to continue to program an analog radio service after the deadline to switch to digital.
While full power stations were required to go all digital in 2009, the FCC allowed LPTVs to continue to broadcast in analog until 12 months after the completion of the post-incentive auction repack, currently on track to meet its July 3, 2020 deadline, which means LPTVs would have to make the digital switch by July 3, 2021.
Some analog LPTVs (operating on ch. 6) use their spectrum to program an ancillary audio service available on the FM dial (87.76 MHz) and want to continue to be able to continue to deliver that analog signal after the mandatory transition to digital.
The commission has sought comment on the issue before, but citing the approaching deadline and "recent developments," said this week it wanted to refresh the record.
The FCC wants to know if its supplementary service rules mean that the ancillary analog service is OK even after the deadline, whether, in that case, the FCC could limit the number of such services--say, applying only to existing services--whether such rights could be transferred, or whether, alternatively, an analog service is not consistent with the designation of digital as being for the provision of "advanced television services."
Finally, if an analog audio service is consistent with that digital mandate, can the FCC subject it to the fee of 5% revenue currently levied on ancillary services.
The FCC is providing commenters 45 days to weigh in, with 30 days for initial comments and another 15 for replies.
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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.