Welcome to RF Current, a weekly electronic newsletter focusing on Broadcast technical and F.C.C. related issues. This newsletter is part of The RF Page @ www.transmitter.com, a web site devoted to TV Broadcast RF engineering. For more information see the What is... guide to the R.F. Page site.

This page contains stories from RF Current issues published in March 1996. Links referenced in the articles were current when published but by this time may have changed. If you find a bad link, try connecting to the home page of the publication or company and look for an archive of past articles.

March 25, 1996 - Issue 18 Final

FCC Commissioner Susan Ness assesses TV broadcasters' future (Mar. 25)

The FCC today released details on Commissioner Susan Ness' comments before the West Virginia Broadcasters Association on March 18th. In the address, Commissioner Ness noted that "How broadcasters position themselves to do battle in this multimedia, interactive world will determine whether broadcasting thrives or just survives at the turn of the century." She also said the Commision planned to go forward with consideration of the proposed Grand Alliance standard and said the Commission would consider specific channeling plans.

In matters of more immediate interest to broadcasters, Ness said she favored moving from the Grade B to Grade A coverage contour in determinations for TV duopoly conflicts. She also said that, for application after May 1995, licensees seeking renewal would stand on their own record instead of being open to comparision with a "would-be competitor". Licenses may now be renewed for eight years.

SCIENCE - Comet Hyakutake Visible in the Night Sky (Mar. 24)

Sunday night Comet Hyakutake was clearly visible, without binoculars, in the sky above Miami. This was in spite of severe light polution and a brightly illuminated cloud nearby. Sunday marked Hyakutake's closest approach to earth, but there is still time to see it before it leaves. Here are some web sites for more information on the comet:

FCC - Possible Delay in LPTV Window to Avoid NAB (Mar. 23)

When it set the next and perhaps final LPTV filing window earlier this week, the FCC didn't realize it conflicted with the one essential convention for all broadcast engineerings - the NAB Convention in Las Vegas April 14-18. I've learned that engineers involved with TV translators and consultants working on LPTV filings may petition the FCC for a delay. FCC Public Notice requirements would push a new window date into May. If you support this delay, your comments to the FCC may make a difference. The FCC is reachable via e-mail. For a general listing of FCC departments on the 'Net see my FCC Links page.

FCC announces LPTV "Major Change Only" Filing Window (Mar. 19)

Yesterday the FCC released Public Notice PNMM6001.TXT announcing a Low Power TV / TV Translator "Major Change Only" filing window from April 22, 1996 through April 26, 1996. Aside from not accepting any applications for new stations, in this window major changes that move a station more than 40 miles (64.4 km) from the existing location will not be accepted. Full details on the window are available in the Public Notice.

FCC - Comments due on telemetry in TV bands in less than 30 days (Mar. 19)

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on modification of 47 CFR Part 15 the FCC,

"the Commission proposes to expand the available frequencies and increase the permitted power for unlicensed biomedical telemetry devices operating on VHF and UHF television channels. This is in response to a petition for rule making, filed on December 23, 1994, by the Critical Care Telemetry Group (CCTG). The Commission seeks to provide reasonable access to additional spectrum to meet the needs of CCTG and the health care industry while protecting existing television and future advanced digital television services from potential interference."

The FCC proposed that biomedicial devices be required to vacate existing TV spectrum that is reallocated for other use as a result of the implementation of DTV. Power levels under the proposed rulemaking would be limited to 5 milliwatts or less. The FCC said this level "necessitates provisions to protect the television broadcast service." Co-channel separation requirements are listed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. (Ed. note - Thanks to Johnny Stigler, ENG Supervisor at WFAA-TV for bringing this item to my attention.)

WIRELESS - Bell Atlantic uses wireless digital TV for Video On Demand (Mar. 19)

In a press release issued today Bell Atlantic said their market trial showed that video-on-demand was "capable of becoming a key revenue generator with buy rates 12 times that of Pay-Per-View". The release said that "Bell Atlantic's initial offering will be a wireless digital TV service with near-video-on-demand capability." Bell Atlantic is one of several Bell Operating Companies using wireless "cable" TV to deliver video programming. See earlier issues of RF Current for information on PacBell's acquistion of wireless "cable" systems in California.

March 18, 1996 - Issue 17 Final

SATELLITE - Intelsat launches 707 spacecraft (Mar. 15)

Early Thursday morning east coast time, Intelsat successfully launched the 707, an Intelsat VII-A spacecraft from Korou in French Guiana. The spacecraft will be parked at 359 degrees East to serve the Atlantic region. The spacecraft was originally planned to be deployed at 310 degrees. The 707's forty transponders provide a mix of Ku and C band services. More details are available in the Intelsat Press Release and Coverage Map.

DIGITAL - IndeNet announces Digital Spot network (Mar. 15)

Satellite spot distribution and MPEG based hard disk spot storage are combined in the IndeNet Spot Network. The network will use Hughes Galaxy IV satellite to deliver MPEG compressed commercials and other spots to video servers installed at particpating TV stations. Many broadcasters will be familiar with IndeNet's associated company - Channelmatic, which provides automated spot playback equipment to cable operators. Full details are available on IndeNet's web site www.indenet.com.

CANADA - CRTC sets deadline V-Chip based TV Classification (Mar. 14)

In Public Notice CRTC 1996-36 released today the CRTC said it was setting a September 1996 deadline for broadcasters to lauch a V-chip based rating system. The Public Notice contains an thorough presentation on the ratings system and how it should be applied to different types of programming.

FCC releases Report and Order on Satellite Dish Zoning Preemption (Mar. 12)

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 gave the FCC new powers to ensure the public has access to video programming. The R&O noted that

"Specifically, section 207 of the 1996 Act directs the Commission to promulgate regulations:
to prohibit restrictions that impair a viewer's ability to receive video programming services through devices designed for over-the-air reception of television broadcast signals multichannel, multipoint distribution service, or direct broadcast satellite services.

The R&O continues:

"The federal interest we are protecting is not that of ensuring that the American people can get less costly television service, but rather that they have wide access to all available technologies and information services. If nonfederal regulations are acting as obstacles to this federal interest, they are subject to preemption."

The exact details of the Report and Order are quite detailed and there are numerous preemption exceptions. The FCC invites comments on further rulemaking in the proceeding. Restrictions on antennas for reception of over the air TV signals were not addressed in this R&O.

March 11, 1996 - Issue 16 Final

FCC Raises Ownership Limitations on TV broadcast Stations (Mar. 11)

In Press Release nrmm6011.txt the FCC announced Monday that Friday

The Commission has revised its rules, as directed by the Telecom Act, to eliminate the numerical limits on national television ownership and raise the national audience reach limitation to 35 percent.

ATV - "Citizens for HDTV" to fight efforts to auction digital TV licenses (Mar. 8)

"Citizens for HDTV" is a group formed to fight lawmakers efforts to auction spectrum for digital TV broadcasting. Jim Carnes, the group's spokeman, said making broadcaster pay for digital spectrum would put an end to free TV. The article in HDTV Today said several unions with workers in the broadcast industry have joined the group.

DIGITAL - Sony Joins Intercast Group (Mar. 8)

In a news release today Sony said it was joining the Intercast Group to support the Intercast medium Intercast uses the vertical blanking interval of NTSC video signals to transmit data at speeds exceeding 56 Kbs. Data delivered by Intercast is formatted using HTML and, which the appropriate return path, can even be used for browsing the Internet. Intercast Group consists of companies in the broadcast, cable, hardware and computer industries working together to promote over the air data distribution. Alternatives to internet browsing include transmission of local information related to video progams.

MICROWAVE - SBE looking for inteference from PCS to 2GHz. microwave (Mar. 8)

SBE Short Circuits reported that "SBE Headquarters has received reports from certain East Coast and West Coast areas of the country of severe interference from newly-constructed PCS facilities at 1950 and 1965 MHz to 2 GHz ENG operations on Channels A1 and A2. SBE is interested in collecting data from any member who has knowledge of such incidents." Reports should be sent to SBE General Counsel Chris Imlay, by fax at (202) 293-1319 or via E-Mail at cimlay@mcimail.com.

FCC designates Liberty Cable Company microwave applications for hearing (Mar. 6)

The FCC's Wireless Bureau in news release nwrl6009.txt indicated it was designating the applications for 18 GHz. private operational fixed microwave services in New York City for hearing. The FCC said Liberty admitted it had operated some of its microwave transmitters before receiving FCC authorization. Liberty Cable Company uses the microwave to distribute cable programming direct to approximately 150 buildings in New York City.

WIRELESS - ITS to build wireless systems in Boston and Norfolk (Mar. 5)

In a press release issued yesterday ITS announced CAI Wireless Systems, Inc. awarded it a contract to build a large network of digital transmitters and boosters for Boston, MA and Norfolk, VA. The order involves 33 transmitters for each main and booster site along with combiners, backup equipment and antennas. ITS is also providing system integration. Full details are available in the press release.

March 4, 1996 - Issue 15

SCIENCE FEATURE - Inside Info on the Tethered Satellite System (Mar. 3)

The Italian Space Agency's Tethered Satellite System Reflight 1 (TSS-1R) experiment on board the STS-75 space shuttle might meet one of its primary missions in spite of the failure of the tether. NASA's web site reported "Dr. Marino Dobrowolny, the Italian Space Agency TSS mission scientist, noted that a main goal was to characterize the relationship between current collected and voltage across the tether. During tether deployment, current and voltage levels were observed under conditions that cannot be duplicated in the laboratory." The report continued "There are cases where twice as much current was collected than was predicted by the best computer models available."

The technology behind the TSS-1R makes interesting reading for RF engineers. One of the experiments was to be injecting long wavelength RF into the space plasma to see how it propagated in the ionisphere. Imagine - a 13 mile long antenna! The system specifications called for the tether to generate up to 5,000 volts at 500 mA. Start your investigation by visiting NASA's web site to get an overview of TSS-1R. If you want to know more, over a dozen pages are linked in the TSS-1R Brochure, the definitive reference on TSS-1R complete with technical details, drawings and photos.

After reading this, you might want to step outside and see if you can see the shuttle or the TSS and tether in the early morning. NASA has provided a real time tracking map of the shuttle as well as details on where and when to look for the shuttle and the TSS and its tether. A quick glance at the listings showed best viewing times in Atlanta Georgia at 5:31 AM on March 11th and at 5:29 AM in Dallas Texas on March 9th. Many other cites in the southern part of the United States and around the world will also have an opportunity to see the unusual sight of the tether trailing behind the satellite. Check the highlighted listings for details.

INDUSTRY - Paul Dickie elected chairman of LARCAN-TTC (Mar. 1)

Larcan-TTC announced today that Paul Dickie, the president of LeBlanc and Royle Enterprises, has been elected as the new chairman of LARCAN-TTC. Dr. Byron St. Clair was appointed chairman emeritus of the company. LARCAN-TTC manufactures a full line of UHF transmitters, VHF low power transmitters and translators and solid state FM transmitters and translators. In the release LARCAN-TTC said:

"These changes have been made to better position the company for the future challenges in the broadcast industry, which will ensue as a result of the new communications act.

St. Clair will consult to the board on new developments regarding the TV and FM translator markets as well as on the emerging wireless cable market. He has devoted all of his career to serving the translator and low power TV markets.

Dickie will be able to assist in cementing the company's future relations with the parent company's traditional customers in the high power broadcast market."

FCC Revises Rule on Satellite Dish Zoning Premption (Feb. 29)

In a news release (nrin6006.txt) issued today the FCC announced it was revising its "1986 rule preempting certain local regulations of satellite earth station antennas to ensure that all Americans are able to have as many choices as possible for delivery of video programming and to facilitate access to all satellite services." The release said "This action was taken, in part, in response to evidence that some local jurisdictions were inhibiting the growth of satellite services by enforcing overly restrictive and unreasonable zoning laws. In addition, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Section 207, directs the Commission to preempt non-federal restrictions that impair reception by antennas used in certain direct-to-home video services including Direct Broadcast Satellite services." It remains to be seen if the FCC will adopt a similar rule preempting local restrictions on outdoor VHF and UHF receiving antennas, based on the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

FCC Exhibit on New Technology Open to the Public - March 4 and 5 (Mar. 1)

In Public Notice pnmc6012.txt the FCC said "The demonstrations will include a variety of wireless technologies such as the transmission of bio-medical data, voice, data, still picture video, and radio LANs." Exhibitors include: American Mobile Satellite Corporation, GM/Hughes, Metricom, Northern Telecom, CyLink, Securicor Radiocoms, SpaceLabs and Wave Phore. The exhibits are being held in conjunction with the en banc hearing on spectrum policy, as outlined in RF Current for February 19.

FCC proposes Modification of Fixed Service Microwave Rules (Feb. 29)

Antenna technology is advancing and the FCC has begun a Rulemaking to modify its Fixed Service Microwave rules to make them more compatible with the new technologies. "Specifically, the Notice proposes to permit directional antennas to comply with requirements for either minimum antenna gain or maximum beamwidth." Details are available in New Release nret6004.txt. A link to the actual Notice of Propose Rulemaking will be listed here when available.

TV - EE Times reports "Smart TV may be here by Christmas" (Feb. 26)

An article in EE Times by Junko Yoshida says Phillips Consumer Electronics and Zenith Electronics Corporation are both planning to introduce "smart TVs" with such features as a graphic user interface and storage for instant replays, possibly as soon as Christmas 1996. This continues the trend noted in earlier RF Current columns towards digital based TV's and receivers, even before digital TV broadcasting begins.

Other Issues Available:



1995 and 1996

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Last modified March 26, 1996 by Doug Lung dlung@transmitter.com
Copyright © 1996 H. Douglas Lung