Colliding fronts cloud LPTV's DTV future


FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wants to do something to help low power and Class A television stations, seemingly the forgotten stepchild of the DTV conversion. In fact, he would go beyond just making sure that those still broadcasting in analog are still viewable off-air. However, the MVPD community is balking at the proposals.

Smaller cable systems have already been complaining about having an analog-digital dual carriage requirement imposed on them for full-power television stations, citing lack of capacity. Although the NCTA has agreed to dual carriage for the three years after 2/17/09, the ACA, representing smaller cable operators has objected, saying subscribers will lose viewing options, and that the requirement will inhibit their ability to provide other services, such as broadband access.

Basic cable operators have also opposed dual carriage, saying it may force some of their offerings off the channel cards.

This problem will only be aggravated if the FCC suddenly grants must-carry rights to LPTVs/Class As, as is being discussed, especially since most of them operate communities too small to support full power TV, which is also where the most capacity-challenged cable systems are.

Also at issue is an analog pass-through requirement, allowing analog LPTV’s to be picked up off-air in households using a digital-to-analog converter box to receive broadcast signals on old analog television sets.

TVBR/RBR observation: Something needs to be done about the plight of low power stations, which may be forced into bankruptcy if left behind on conversion day. This issue will quite possibly surface on the agenda for next week’s February FCC Open Meeting. Stay tuned.