WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senators Roy Blunt and Ron Wyden have come together to propose legislation that, if passed, would strengthen spectrum rights for some low power television (LPTV) stations.
In particular, the “Low Power Protection Act” would open up a filing window qualifying LPTV stations to apply for and receive Class A status. The NAB is supportive of this bill.
“Local television stations play a unique and critical role in their communities, keeping viewers informed, entertained, and alerted in an emergency,” said Blunt. “The Low Power Protection Act would help ensure smaller stations, especially those in Missouri’s rural areas, are able to continue providing coverage that people depend on. I appreciate Senator Wyden’s partnership in this effort and the strong support the bill has received from local, state, and national broadcasters.”
The bill came on a day when Springfield, Mo., became the latest market to rollout NEXTGEN TV. Among the stations using the ATSC 3.0-powered technology is Gray Television’s low-powered ABC affiliate serving the market.
“Low power television stations provide diverse, locally-oriented broadcasting in small communities across Oregon, especially in rural and remote areas of our state,” said Wyden. “I’m proud to join my colleague Senator Blunt in introducing this common-sense, bipartisan bill to empower LPTV stations that serve their communities.”
LPTV stations usually provide locally-oriented or specialized service in their communities. However, LPTV is currently considered a secondary broadcast service by the FCC. As such, LPTV licensees are not granted protections from harmful interference or displacement, and must accept harmful interference or displacement from full power television stations.
In 1999, in an effort to protect LPTV stations from harmful interference or displacement during the transition from analog to digital broadcasting, Congress passed the Community Broadcaster Protection Act (CBPA). The law created the “Class A” station status, and opened a one-time filing window for stations to apply. CBPA directed that Class A licensees be subject to the same license terms and renewal standards as full power television licensees, and that Class A licensees be accorded primary status as television broadcasters as long as they continue to meet the requirements set forth in the statute.
Blunt and Wyden’s Low Power Protection Act would require the FCC to open a new filing window during which qualifying LPTV stations could apply for and receive Class A status.
Class A status would protect LPTV stations from being bumped off-air by harmful interference. That, in turn, “will help ensure they are able to continue providing local coverage, and allow them to better protect existing investment and incentivize further investment in their stations and communities,” the senators say.
Frank Copsidas, Founder and President of the recently formed LPTV Broadcasters Association, says his advocacy group strongly endorses the bill.
“It is an essential, meaningful initiative to serve the public interest,” he said. “The Act is cited as ‘The Low Power Protection Act’ and a key word is ‘protection.’ Much attention has been given to encouraging support for local journalism and jobs, and protecting television stations for the viewers they serve. Secure, trusted local news and culturally diverse content is the foundation of the programming that our members uniquely broadcast on a daily basis. Simply stated, this bill allows LPTV stations to grow to the next level in serving the public interest with both protection of broadcast coverage area and the ability to secure crucial small business financing. The LPTV Broadcasters Association on behalf of its members around the country is committed to seeing this legislation be passed.”
The NAB also took a moment to applaud the bill’s introduction, as it would offer “some community-oriented low power television stations a long-overdue opportunity to gain important interference protections. Millions of viewers across the country rely on LPTVs for local news, weather, community affairs and emergency information, particularly in rural areas and smaller markets. This legislation would ensure Americans’ access to these vital stations and provide assurance that their signals can remain on the air. Broadcasters thank Sens. Wyden and Blunt for their efforts to help LPTVs and their viewers, and we support swift passage of this bill.”
The state broadcasters associations of Oregon and Missouri also support the bill as does the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
For NHMC President/CEO Brenda Victoria Castillo, “Negative portrayals of the Latinx community and the perceptions that come from them are often due to the appallingly low levels of Latinx broadcast and media ownership. Low power television (LPTV) broadcasters tend to provide more unique and diverse programming directly to Latinx and marginalized communities, but often find their frequencies assigned to larger operators that disregard diversity. NHMC is proud to support the Low Power Protection Act–a solution that promotes media diversity by empowering LPTV broadcasters as Class-A licensees.”
— Additional reporting by Adam Jacobson, in Boca Raton, Fla.