FCC resolves a virtual problem


Now that television stations are using “virtual channels” to identify themselves to consumer receivers, the FCC is making it clear that stations don’t get to pick and choose which channel ID to use.

The case in question had WWSB (ABC) Sarasota, FL (in the Tampa-St. Pete DMA) complaining that WACX-TV (Religious) Leesburg, FL (Orlando DMA) was incorrectly using virtual channel 40 and creating confusion in areas where some consumers trying to tune to WWSB were instead getting WACX.

Here’s the explanation. WWSB, formerly on analog channel 40, is now on digital channel 24 and using virtual channel 40 as its identifier. (The station also brands itself as Channel 7, which is where it is located on most cable systems). WACX was on analog channel 55 and is now on digital channel 40.

The licensee of WACX, Associated Christian Television System, had insisted that it was following the order of the FCC Video Division by using virtual channel 40 after surrendering its analog license for channel 55.

Not so, Barbara Kreisman, Chief of the FCC Media Bureau’s Video Division ruled. The Digital Transition Authorization Letter from the Video Division had authorized WACX to begin digital broadcasting on channel 40, but did not assign channel 40 as its virtual channel number. Under the digital transition rules WACX is required to use virtual channel 55 and may not use 40.