Your stations are a source of diverse and very local programming. You serve rural and sometimes highly remote locations. And in many instances you provide network and PBS programming to viewers who otherwise could not receive it.
"Lord, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
In this instance, the things that can not be changed include:
- The secondary status of your stations with respect to interference protection, and
- The decisions by Congress not to include you as participants in the incentive auction, or
- Protect your stations in the subsequent repacking of the broadcast band, or
- To pay your expenses if you are displaced to a new channel.
In your advocacy to the Commission, I think you are best served by recognizing the things that can't be changed.
That said, there are things we can do, and with your help we are trying to focus on those.
In our incentive auction Order, we made clear that low power and TV translator stations whose channels are reprogrammed for flexible wireless use will be allowed to stay on their existing channels after the incentive auction, until they receive 120 days notice that the buyer of the spectrum is ready to start operations. In many rural areas, that period may extend for years.
We also said that, after the auction, we will provide a special window for displaced low power and TV translator stations to apply for displacement channels.
As you know, in October of last year we started a proceeding to explore what additional steps we might take to help low power and TV translator stations to continue to serve their communities.
We had heard the concern about the risk that stations might have to do a double build, if they were required to finish converting to digital transmission by the September deadline and then to build again on a displacement channel after the auction.
In our Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, we proposed to extend the September deadline.
More recently, because the deadline is approaching, the Media Bureau has suspended the deadline until the Commission acts on a new timetable.
We did the same for construction permit deadlines for new digital stations. As a reminder, these moves do not affect the transition schedule for Class A stations, who remain subject to the September deadline.
And they must finish construction by May 29 if they want their digital contours to be protected.
We also proposed to allow low power and TV translator stations to channel share. If the Commission adopts that proposal, it will allow stations to enlist the power of multicasting that digital transmission creates, to address any shortage of frequencies after the auction. Sharing a facility may also reduce operating and maintenance costs for licensees whose pockets are not deep.
We expect that channel sharing will be voluntary, as it is for full power stations. The Commission has no wish to get into arranging forced marriages. We've welcomed your input on the details of how channel sharing should work. This is a good example of how you can help us to change the things that can be changed, and make sure that we get the changes right.
We're also exploring what help we can give to displaced stations in finding displacement channels.
We're developing software that will help us find the optimal set of channel assignments for full power and Class A stations when we repack after the auction. We're looking into whether we could use the same or similar software to generate an optimal set of displacement channels for low power and TV translator stations after the repack. As you know, traditionally it has been up to an individual low power station to find a new channel if it is displaced.
In our notice, we invited suggestions about other things we might do to make the post-auction world better for low power and TV translator stations. We got quite a few suggestions, and we're considering them all.
Various types of stations, such as public stations or those that do local programming, have proposed that they be given priority over others in the displacement process.
A number of stations have urged that they be allowed to use different technical standards or network architectures, such as single frequency networks.
We're aware, of course, of the work that is being done to develop a new standard for TV transmission, which would affect full powers as well as low power stations. One attraction of a possible new standard would be increased spectral efficiency, including the ability to deploy single frequency networks.
We've been asked to find a path for low power and TV translator stations to achieve primary status, a proposal that raises complex policy and legal issues.
We hope to bring this proceeding to an order this summer. We appreciate the input we've received from you so far, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to protect the interests of your viewers -- again, within the range of the possible.
I might mention two other proceedings that are likely of interest to you.
- First, we need to put flesh on the bones of what it means for a wireless carrier to "commence operations" on a channel you may be using. Watch for a notice that will call for comment, and we'll look forward to hearing your views.
- Second, the Commission has said it will try to preserve one vacant channel in each market for use by unlicensed devices. The Chairman has circulated a proposal on how to do this. When a proposal is released, I expect you'll want to take a look at it.
Thanks, and again I'm happy to be with you.