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August 21, 2000 - Issue 228 Final Edition
- DTV - Broadcasters' Comments Blame FCC For Delay in DTV Conversion (Aug.)
- Broadcast station groups Shop and Home, Inc and Paxson Communications Corporation filed separate comments in the Review of Commission's Rules and Policies Affecting the Conversion to Digital Television. Both groups placed the blame for the lack of progress in the DTV transition on the FCC.
Paxson's summary of its comments was blunt:
Crucial decisions involving this country's communications development are today caught in a regulatory gridlock at the Federal Communications Commission. The five-year old transition to digital television broadcasting is in total disarray. The FCC has supported broadcast transmission standards that may not work. They have failed to issue the bulk of the necessary permits to build DTV stations and they have a build-out deadline mandate for May, 2002 that ignores the unavailability of towers, transmitters and antennas. There are virtually no digital TV receivers being purchased in the country, and there are no TV set compatibility standards as the cable and TV set manufacturers continue to bicker. A two-year old proceeding at the FCC to articulate DTV broadcasters’ cable must carry rights remains unacted upon by the FCC. Television broadcasters are frantic and frustrated, and the American public is starting to point fingers."
Shop At Home, Inc. owns six television stations, three of them in the Channel 59-59 range. It comented "Despite the FCC's desire for a speedy move from the 700MHz spectrum, and even if Shop At Home was willing to accommodate the agency by vacating the spectrum early, it would be prevented from doing so because the Commission itself has yet not granted it the requisite authority to construct its new digital facilities." Shop at Home said, "In November 1999, Shop At Home filed six DTV construction permit applications, including applications for new digital channel assignments to replace our Channels in the 59-69 band. None of these applications have been granted in the past ten months."
Shop At Home called for the FCC to adopt full digital must carry for the entire 6 MHz DTV channel. It also urged the Commission "to adopt only market-based, voluntary band-clearing mechanisms, preferably the Spectrum Exchange proposal, in order to ensure that incumbent licensees who have spent considerable sums to develop that spectrum have the chance to recover the fair value of their investment, while encouraging an expedited recovery of the Channel 59-69 spectrum."
In its filing, Paxson addressed issues relating to clearing the channel 59-69 spectrum. Establishment of full digital must-carry on cable is essential. Paxson pointed out that it owned eighteen analog stations and has one digital allotment in the channel 59-69 band, which represents nearly one seventh the affected stations. Like Shop At Home, it pointed to inaction at the FCC as a major problem, noting, "Even efforts to assist the FCC have been met with silence and inaction. On its own initiative, PCC asked consulting engineers to conduct a study of whether any of the five DTV allocations in the channels 60-69 band in the Los Angeles DMA could be reallocated to other DTV channels. PCC informed the FCC that it had identified seven channels that held promise for DTV use. The use of some or all of these channels would significantly free up the 700 MHz band and have a positive impact on the spectrum auction. The FCC has yet to respond."
Paxson pointed to another problem at the FCC: "The FCC has offered little accommodation in its policies for the licensing of digital translators to broadcasters, crippling their ability to obtain actual replication of their existing free programming service in the digital world. This will adversely impact the ability of low power and translator stations that provide irreplaceable over-the-air service to the viewing public in America's most rural areas."
FCC Chairman Kennard urged broadcasters to "negotiate voluntarily with incoming licensees, so that this valuable spectrum can be used quickly to its maximum capacity." Broadcasters are not to blame for delays in the 700 MHz spectrum auctions, Paxson (PCC) explained. "In letters dated May 25, 2000 and July 17, 2000 PCC wrote to the potential 700 MHz bidders and asked them to contact PCC if they were interested in discussing the issues surrounding spectrum clearing. PCC opened the door for such discussions but not one bidder has yet to step through and meet with PCC. To PCC's knowledge, none of the bidders has approached any of the other incumbent broadcasters. If the 700 MHz bidders will not talk to broadcasters about band clearing, then surely they cannot blame broadcasters for the delay in the auction or a delay in developing a wireless internet in this country."
Full DTV must-carry is the key component of Paxson's plan to accelerate the DTV transition. It could help help alleviate the problem many broadcasters face in finding tower space for their DTV antenna. Paxson states, "If PCC (and other broadcasters) were assured, however, of full digital must carry and, thus, a clear road to clearing the analog spectrum, it would not waste valuable resources seeking to build another tower. PCC simply would replace its analog antenna and equipment with new digital equipment on the existing tower -- and save hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process. PCC has been informed such a switch-over would only take the station off the air for 72 hours, but the cost savings would be immense. The total cost savings for all similarly situated broadcasters would be in the millions."
Paxson called on the FCC to do its part to facilitate the band clearing process: "To ensure that the 700 MHz auction is timely held, the FCC should issue a Report and Order in this proceeding by November 13, 2000. Likewise, the FCC should issue by November 13th the Report and Order for full digital must carry, authorize both or select either the COFDM or 8-VSB digital transmission standards, and establish operability standards for DTV sets." "The FCC must give expedited processing (i.e., act within 60 days of filing) to all applications (modifications, STAs, etc.) filed by incumbent broadcasters seeking to commence digital operations on the lower channels. If incumbent broadcasters are willing to terminate analog service -- the format familiar to its viewers -- and ramp-up DTV operations as quickly as necessary, then the FCC must eliminate regulatory processing delays."
Paxson outlined the reasons all stations will not be able to meet the May 1, 2002 deadline for starting DTV transmission. "At the present time, it appears that there are well over 1000 pending DTV construction permit applications and DTV maximization requests pending at the FCC. With a May 1, 2002 on-air date for commercial television stations, when does the FCC expect to take action on these applications and requests? Furthermore, the DTV deadline imposed by FCC is blind to the fact that DTV transmitter and antenna manufacturers cannot provide such equipment in time for all stations to meet the May 1, 2002 date. Nor can tower companies build enough new towers in that timeframe given the scarcity of special steel that has to be imported into this country. The FCC's refusal to recognize these fundamental problems will not make them go away."
The Paxson filing includes more detailed comments on DTV must-carry, the DTV transmission standard and other relevant topics. While the filing focuses on channels 59-69, many of the comments apply to broadcasters on other channels. The 52 page filing is available for download as a PDF file at http://www.pax.tv/fccfiling/700comments.pdf. Shop At Home's FCC filing is also available on-line.
- FCC Notice of Proposed Rule Making to Modify DTV Table of Allotments in Birmingham, Alabama (Aug. 18)
- Alabama Educational Television Commission (AETC), licensee of station WBIQ-TV, NTSC Channel 10 in Birmingham, Alabama has requested the substitution of DTV Channel 5 for its assigned DTV Channel 53. AETC said adoption of the proposal would permit the station to obtain a core spectrum allotment, allowing it to construct only one set of digital transmission facilities and reduce construction costs. It also noted that it was a public agency with limited funding and funding spent on technical matters is funding that cannot be dedicated to public programming.
The FCC has found this channel change would meet its requirements and warrants consideration. The technical parameters of the modified allotment on Channel 5 would specify an effective radiated power of 2.0 kW at a height above average terrain of 296 meters.
Interested parties may file comments on or before October 10, 2000. Reply comments are due on or before October 25, 2000. Refer to the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (MM Docket 00-136) for details on the request and information on filing comments.
- FCC Notice of Proposed Rule Making to Modify DTV Table of Allotments in Reno, Nevada (Aug. 18)
- Sierra Broadcasting, licensee of station KRNV, NTSC Channel 4 in Reno, Nevada has requested the substitution of DTV Channel 9 for its assigned DTV Channel 34. In the filing, Sierra submits that "it is located in a small market and suffers the most severe coverage
problems of any market in the nation due to terrain shielding." By operating on DTV Channel 9, Sierra said it would be able to improve its replication of its existing NTSC signal and reduced operating costs. By using channel 9, the station saids its coverage would be some 37 percent greater than the proposed DTV coverage on channel 34.
The FCC has found this channel change would meet its requirements and warrants consideration. The technical parameters of the modified allotment on Channel 9 would specify an effective radiated power of 16.8 kW at a height above average terrain of 856.5 meters at coordinates 39-18-57 N. and 119-53-00 W.
Interested parties may file comments on or before October 10, 2000. Reply comments are due on or before October 25, 2000. Refer to the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (MM Docket 00-137) for details on the request and information on filing comments.
- FCC Notice of Proposed Rule Making to Modify DTV Table of Allotments in Boca Raton, Florida (Aug. 18)
- Palmetto Broadcasters Associated for Communities, Inc. (Palmetto), licensee of station WPPB-TV, NTSC Channel 63 in Boca Raton, Florida and Channel 63 of Palm Beach, the proposed assignee of station WPPB, requested the substitution of DTV Channel 40 for its assigned DTV Channel 44. Palmetto and Channel 63 stated that the proposed substituion is an essential part of a settlement agreement between Palmetto and Guenter Marksteiner and asserted that "adoption of their proposal will permit the operation of the sole noncommercial TV station in Boca Raton and the provision of the first local television service to Stuart, Florida."
The FCC has found this channel change would meet its requirements and warrants consideration. The technical parameters of the modified allotment on Channel 40 would specify an effective radiated power of 1000 kW at a height above average terrain of 310 meters at coordinates 25-59-34 N. and 80-10-27 W.
Interested parties may file comments on or before October 10, 2000. Reply comments are due on or before October 25, 2000. Refer to the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (MM Docket 00-138) for details on the request and information on filing comments.
- FCC Notice of Proposed Rule Making to Modify DTV Table of Allotments in Little Rock, Arkansas (Aug. 18)
- Channel 42 of Little Rock, Inc., licensee of station KYPX, NTSC Channel 42 in Little Rock, Arkansas has requested the substitution of DTV Channel 44 for its assigned DTV Channel 43. Channel 42 said it needs to change its DTV channel and location in order to "to avoid severely reducing its ERP to protect a vacant NTSC allotment on Channel 43 at El Dorado, Arkansas." Also, Channel 42 stated than after the DTV Table of Allotments was released, it received authority to move its analog transmitter to a new site, from which it is now operating. By changing its DTV channel to 44, KYPX could co-locate and share analog and digital facilities.
The FCC has found this channel change would meet its requirements and warrants consideration. The technical parameters of the modified allotment on Channel 44 would specify an effective radiated power of 1,000 kW at a height above average terrain of 334 meters.
Interested parties may file comments on or before October 10, 2000. Reply comments are due on or before October 25, 2000. Refer to the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (MM Docket 00-139) for details on the request and information on filing comments.
- FCC Notice of Proposed Rule Making to Modify DTV Table of Allotments in Scottsbluff, Nebraska (Aug. 18)
- Duhamel Broadcasting Enterprises, licensee of station KDUH-TV, NTSC Channel 4 in Scottsbluff, Nebraska has requested the substitution of DTV Channel 7 for its assigned DTV Channel 20. Duhamel stated the modification would allow it to cover the entire community of Scottsbluff with the required 36 dBu signal, allow it to operated with substantially less transmitter power and use a smaller transmitting antenna. The smaller antenna would permit the use of its current tower, reducing DTV implementation costs.
The FCC has found this channel change would meet its requirements and warrants consideration. The technical parameters of the modified allotment on Channel 30 would specify an effective radiated power of 32.4 kW at a height above average terrain of 592 meters.
Interested parties may file comments on or before October 10, 2000. Reply comments are due on or before October 25, 2000. Refer to the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (MM Docket 00-140) for details on the request and information on filing comments.
- OTHER Items of Interest
>>>>Next August 28 - Issue 229
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