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New Bill Could Give More LPTV Stations Class A Status

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Architect of the Capitol)

Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are introducing a bill that would give some low-power television (LPTV) stations the opportunity to apply for Class A television service status and its additional interference protections. 

LPTVs haven’t been able to apply to the Federal Communications Commission for such status since 1999.

(Editor's Note: The story initially said it would also provide limited must-carry rights, but those are confined to a small subset of rural LPTV stations and would only apply to those).

Blunt signaled in written questions to FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel after her nomination hearing that he was looking to give low-power stations a new window on Class A status, saying: “Years ago, Congress enacted a law which allowed certain low power television stations to apply for and receive enhanced rights to their spectrum licenses, giving them certainty to invest in their stations and grow their audiences in mainly small and rural markets. I’m working on legislation to open another, similar window to allow for additional low power stations to once again apply for these ‘Class A’ rights. Can I have your commitment that you will work with me and this Committee in enacting that law so that we can help expand and protect television stations in small markets and the viewers that they serve?”

Rosenworcel’s answer was a succinct “yes.”

“The primary benefits of Class A are to protect broadcast coverage area, encourage investment and secure small business financing which is not available to most LPTV facilities,” said the LPTV Broadcasters Association, which enthusiastically endorsed the bill.

"Simply stated, this bill allows LPTV stations to grow to the next level in serving the public interest with both protection of broadcast coverage area and the ability to secure crucial small business financing, the LPTV Broadcasters Association executive director Michael Lee said.

“NAB applauds the introduction of the Low Power Protection Act, which would offer some community-oriented low power television stations a long-overdue opportunity to gain important interference protections,” the National Association of Broadcasters said. “Millions of viewers across the country rely on LPTVs for local news, weather, community affairs and emergency information, particularly in rural areas and smaller markets. This legislation would ensure Americans’ access to these vital stations and provide assurance that their signals can remain on the air.” ■

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.