PREPARING FOR THE LPTV NPRM

On Friday, October 17th, the FCC Commissioners, during their Open Meeting, have on the agenda two key LPTV items:

The Digital Low Power Television Third NPRM

The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding measures to facilitate the final conversion of low power TV and TV translator stations to digital service, and mitigating the potential impact of the incentive auction and the repacking process. 

 

A Suspension Public Notice

The Commission will also consider a concurrent Public Notice suspending expiration dates and construction deadlines for all outstanding unexpired construction permits for new digital low power television and TV translator stations.

 

I thought it might be a useful exercise for those of you who want to invest the time into reviewing the original 2012 Incentive Spectrum Auction NPRM LPTV questions and provide some feedback for us all to consider.  So I crafted a survey of the questions, my commentary from an industry perspective, and set it up so you can add in your ow commentary.  We have done about a dozen of this type of surveys, and while we do not usually get a large number of responses, we do get enough to give us a window into what different parts of the industry is thinking.  Scientific? No, not at all, but heck, neither is the auction.

 

So if you have the time and want to participate great. We will get the results out before the meeting next week to give us all some feedback to ponder. We expect that the new NPRM will also have these questions in it since they were not addressed in the June 2014 Report and Order.  And we expect new questions about such topics as channel sharing, the post auction displacement window, and other auction related items.  At this time we are not expecting anything about flexible-use, which we had high hopes to see in the NPRM.  



There is the chance that we could see before the 17th the Construction Permit Public Notice.  We have heard this has been a topic of much debate on the 8th floor of the FCC.  It is only fair that all of the outstanding CP's be given lots of time and space to reconfigure themselves after the auction.  I talked with a major tower group this week and confirmed that the problem of there being a lack of experienced crews for the big sticks, and that a 39-month relocation timeline is simply not long enough for the primaries and Class-A's to repack.  Never mind trying to force over 3500 LPTV and TV translators to do it then also.  

But the key point to remember is that only built and licensed digital facilities will be able to be part of the first LPTV displacement window six months after the auction closes, (and of course you have to be displaced, either from 51-38, or stepped on below that).  CP's are not part of this, even if they are stepped on.

The official auction timeline, released this past June, details both a 90-day notice to when you will need to have your facilities built by.  And we think that this could be as early as the end of March, or late as the end of June.  It all depends on how the process moves forward.  So if you want in on getting a new channel assignment, and you know for sure you are being displaced, you need to get that new digital plant installed and licensed to cover.

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RBR-TVBR Comments on the Coalition Call for Comments 
about the Comcast-Time Warner merger
This article and editor Dave Seyler's comments are behind the RBR-TVBR paywall, so we got permission to reprint this in full for you to see what they think about yesterday's newsletter entry about the merger and our call for LPTV comments.

"The LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition is not happy with the treatment of low power television by either of the cable giants seeking to merge, and is asking licensees of such stations to take advantage of the extended comment period and detail their own experiences with Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

Low power stations do not have a must-carry mandate to rest on. But they can gain cable carriage if they can get an MVPD to agree to put their station on the channel menu.


 
According to Jud Colley in a letter to LPTV licensees written back in June, TWC was carrying only 10% of all possible LPTV stations in its service areas, and 4% of those were Spanish language stations.


 
Comcast was carrying 22%, but again they were heavily weighted to Spanish stations, with 42% of all local Spanish language stations carried against only 9% of other local LPTVs. It's not that there's an objection to the carriage of Spanish stations - they'd just like more other LPTVs to get a chance at carriage.


 
Advocate Mike Gravino said, "But we now need other LPTV licensees to step up and provide their experiences with any of the three merger partners in trying to obtain leased access deals, retransmission consent, and basic carriage for either their own original programming or that of the networks they air."  The FCC is taking comments until 10/29/14.

 

RBR-TVBR observation: It is possible to make a certain kind of case regarding the merger and LPTV carriage. If a station is providing compelling local content, or providing programming for an underserved segment of the population, the case can be made that an MVPD that denies carriage is not doing all that it can to serve the public interest.

 

On the other hand, with no legal right to carriage, it cannot be argued that an MVPD is not living up to its statutory obligations.

 

But the purpose here is more to object to the merger based on the behavior of the two companies, not to change the rules and regs for LPTV, so a well-orchestrated effort on behalf of LPTV, added to the general record, could have an effect.


 
At the moment, the FCC's position would seem to be closer to that of Comcast and TWC - it appears to be more concerned about the fate of the incentive auction than it is about the fate of LPTV stations.


 
The FCC is set to weigh in on the LPTV situation at the Friday 10/17/14 Open Meeting. Perhaps we'll know more about its thinking at the conclusion of that meeting."


 

We welcome into our collective research, advocacy, and industry lobbying effort two veteran LPTV broadcast groups.  Eagle Broadcasting Group, WTZP-LP, covering DMA 66 in Charlestown-Huntington, WV; and, Image Video Teleproductions, in the Cleveland, OH DMA, and the licensee for WIVM-LD 39-Canton, OH; WIVN-LD 29-New Comerstown, OH; WIVD-LD-22-New Comerstown, OH; WIVX-LD-51-Loundonville, OH; Q27DG-LD-Millersburg, OH.  They join now over 1000 LPTV and TV translator stations in our Coalition, and each new licensee, station, CP, and programming network, and supporting industry member helps expand our voice in DC, where numbers talk.

Some of you have asked how we finance our work since we have a no-cost membership.  Well, it does cost to be part of our Coalition - you got to have the guts to put your call-signs and company name on our website to show that you are "mad as hell and not going to take it any longer".  We do charge reasonable rates for market research, studies, and representation for specific license issues.  And we work with many of the leading law firms, engineers, and equipment providers. But we mostly fund our work through the direct funding by members who put up funding for various projects, like the auction info-session we hosted with the FCC at the spring trade show in Las Vegas.  




Mike Gravino, Director

LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition
lptvcoalition@gmail.com
202-604-0747