Geographically isolated and local community analog TV watchers soon can see their favorite shows in high-definition television. The Federal Communications Commission has issued a public notice on how low power television stations can go digital, beginning in rural areas not served by full-power stations.

Though most of the American viewing public switched to DTV in June, TV translator and low power stations were temporarily exempted from the mandated analog ban. Those stations were to be given the eventual choice of switching over to digital broadcast, starting up a companion digital station, or becoming a TV translator station for a full-power digital broadcaster.

Decision time for the stations now looms, probably much to the delight of their long-suffering viewers eager to see if high-definition TV is all it is cracked up to be. Beginning Aug. 25, three kinds of applications will be accepted by the FCC:

(1) new digital-only LPTV and TV translator stations in rural areas;
(2) changes to analog and digital LPTV and TV translator stations in those areas;
(3) digital companion channels for existing analog LPTV stations.

Five months later – on Jan. 25 – the FCC will open a first-come, first-served application period for low power and TV translator stations located outside rural areas. Some of the station applications must be accompanied by a filing fee of $705 – wouldn’t you love to know how a bureaucrat arrived at that figure? – and all must be filed electronically using FCC form 346. Please note that this application schedule doesn’t preclude LPTV, TV translator and Class A analog stations from switching over to digital on an earlier schedule. In fact, the FCC is encouraging the stations to perform flash-cuts to digital any time.

The transition is not expected to occur without some awkward moments, including displacement. We’ll take this opening to plug LBA Technology’s lineup of Kathrein-Schomandl DTV test equipment, which can solve some of these anticipated problems and prevent future ones. For more information on these stellar testing devices, check out the MSK-200 TV analyzer.

Along with procedures for filing the applications, commissioners published a list of cities and geographical coordinates that rural digital LPTV and TV translator station applicants must use in siting their antennas. We hasten to suggest that local AM stations can provide a convenient tower for some of these LPTV and translator antennas. Lawrence  Behr Associates is an expert source of AM colocation solutions.

About The Author

LBA Group, Inc. has 50 years of experience in providing RF asset solutions and risk management for industrial and telecommunications infrastructure assets. The group is comprised of LBA Technology, a leading manufacturer and integrator of radio frequency systems, lightning protection and EMC equipment for broadcast, industrial and government users worldwide; the professional consultancy Lawrence Behr Associates and LBA University, providing on-site and online professional training. The companies are based in Greenville, N.C., USA.

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