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Martin: Give Class-A LPTVs Shot at Full-Power Status

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin said Thursday that he wants to give class-A low-power-TV stations a chance to gain full-power status and all of the rights and responsibilities that entails.

Among the responsibilities would be complying with minimum children's-programming requirements and other public-interest obligations. One of the key rights would be that cable operators would be required to carry them under the must-carry rules.

The FCC would judge station requests for full-power status on a case-by-case basis, and only if FCC engineers determined that they could serve their communities of license without interfering with others.

Martin said the proposal was an effort to boost diversity of voices, noting that almost one-third of the 500-plus class-A LPTVs are Spanish-language and saying, "I think this is something that will be very critical to some of those Spanish-language broadcasters throughout the country." The FCC estimated that 236 are low-power Spanish-language stations.

He added that it was a response to requests from Spanish-language broadcasters at an Access to Capital conference the FCC hosted in New York several weeks ago.

Martin said that proposal would be on the agenda for the FCC's Oct. 15 meeting, although he pointed out that it was a notice of proposed rulemaking, rather than an order, which means that the FCC will solicit outside comment on the proposal.

Martin's proposal has been circulating around the FCC since last February.

At a press conference outlining the agenda, Martin also said he still hoped to take action on white spaces. The FCC proposed allowing licensed and potentially unlicensed devices to use the so-called white spaces between channels. It has been testing devices but has not yet reached a consensus on whether and how the devices -- laptops, radios -- can be used without interfering with digital-TV stations and wireless microphones now using that spectrum.

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.