The organization known as the Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance, representing both low-power television and Over-the-Top entities, has submitted comments to the FCC in response to its fifth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the subject of the continued use of VHF Channel 6 for radio operations linked to 87.75 MHz.
What does the ATBA have to say to the Commission? “FM6” rules are being strongly supported by the group.
“The ATBA strongly supports measures that provide LPTV stations with the flexibility to offer innovative, high-quality service to the public,” it says.
And, in this case, it involves the use of LPTVs on VHF Channel 6 to augment their digital signal by incorporating secondary analog FM radio services. In an analog universe, Channel 6 audio can be heard on 87.75 MHz. In many markets including Miami and Los Angeles, these FM signals enjoy full-market coverage.
In the ATBA view, these so-called “FM6” operations represent “an efficient use of broadcast spectrum to supplement the over-the-air video and other ancillary or supplementary services an LPTV broadcaster may offer.”
Yet, are “FM6” stations supplementing video content seen on VHF Channel 6, or is the radio service these stations enjoy supplemented by video, making that secondary in nature for consumers? That’s a key question some may have regarding the future of 87.75 MHz as a home for new stations, and NPR has suggested this. However, the consensus is that current services deserve to remain. That’s the position of the ATBA, which says “FM6” stations “have a demonstrated history of providing diverse programming to largely underserved communities.”
In Washington, D.C., Spanish-language programming can be heard on the “FM6” service serving the Nation’s Capital, where it competes for audience against Audacy Corp. and has a new foe courtesy of Jose Villafañe-led Costa Media.
The ATBA also notes that, as it sees it, “the Commission has ample authority to authorize FM6 operations on an ancillary or supplementary basis (to the extent they are not already authorized under the Commission’s rules).
The ATBA concludes, “As the FCC revisits the relationship between operations on TV channel 6 and nearby FM frequencies, it must take care not to take any action that would further limit LPTV operations. The low power television community, which includes both broadcasters and their viewers/listeners, has had to navigate the contraction in available broadcast television spectrum in recent years. Indeed, in many markets, LPTV stations have had to move to channel 6 as a last resort when no UHF spectrum was available. The channel 6 protection rules have provided certainty and stability since their inception. Should the Commission revisit those rules, it must take care to do so in a manner that would not impose further harm on the low power television community.”