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Ideas and Lamentations for Channel 6

Following up on last week’s post about LPTV stations on channel 6 effectively turning into radio broadcasters I’ve been researching the topic a bit more. Turns out that full-power TV stations had the option to stay on channel 6 in their transition to digital, as I learned from this April article in TV Technology. Although their channel space still bumps up against the low end of the FM dial, the don’t retain their analog audio, and so are no longer heard on the radio.

Interestingly, Fred Lass, the director of engineering for Schenectady, NY’s WRGB-TV, tells TV Technology that he’s considering methods for continuing to have an analog FM audio broadcast alongside the station’s digital signal:

“We have a plan to continue operating on 87.7 after we go digital,” he said. “We think that it’s possible to operate with a vertically polarized analog FM audio carrier when we go back to ch. 6 for DTV. That signal will be horizontally polarized, of course, and there should be enough cross pol isolation to make it work.”

Lass admits that he really hasn’t tried this yet, but thinks it should work.

It never occurred to me that DTV stations would be permitted to continue broadcasting an analog FM audio signal, and I wonder if this is something that would require permission from the FCC.

Hearing channel 6 audio on the FM dial seems to be one of those side benefits that a lot of folks in the broadcast community didn’t realize was being taking advantage of so widely. Nor do I think it was anticipated how much it would be missed. Indeed, even Broadcast Engineering blogger Brad Dick writes about his surprise at looking for TV audio on his radio on June 13, the day after the DTV transition.

OMG! I suddenly realized analog television was gone. I would no longer be able to listen to the “CBS Sunday Morning” show while jogging around my parks and roadways. I wouldn’t be able to catch the evening newscasts from ABC, FOX or NBC while biking. I began to realize how much enjoyment I received from listening to television while running. Now that pleasure was gone forever.

The continued existence of digital TV on channel 6 spectrum space might complicate any attempts to expand the FM non-commercial broadcast dial south a couple of notches. Nevertheless I think the laments over the loss of TV audio on FM and on multi-band radios indicates that there is still a healthy demand for audio programming that isn’t otherwise being satisfied by current radio offerings. And where there’s unfulfilled demand there is also opportunity for radio broadcasters to try something more innovative.

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2 Responses to Ideas and Lamentations for Channel 6

  1. winonaww June 28, 2009 at 2:09 pm #

    I may have already asked this elsewhere. I am curious to know about the continuing requirement the FCC has/had on airwave television to provide public services. I recognize that the original understanding was one of educating the public through news, preferably, unbiased news; this was to be a balance to the biased and commercially underwritten forms of entertainment. Now, of course, news is commercially biased and more entertaining than enlightening, and hardly a service. Nonetheless, networks believe that they are fulfilling their responsibility in this way. With satellite-relayed digital images, is the commitment to public service (self- or externally imposed) now gone, along with airwave images?

  2. Paul Riismandel July 1, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

    There is still a requirement for a broadcast station to operate in the public interest, although the specifics are vague. One element of this is to air public interest programming, and news counts for this. Stations are required to document this service and keep a log of it in their public file, which is available for public inspection during normal business hours.

    Members of the public may challenge a station’s license renewal if they believe the station has not operated in the public interest. Several grassroots groups have attempted to challenge TV licenses in Illinois and Iowa over what they see as deficiencies in their local news coverage. None of these challenges have been successful.

    Many in the public interest community believe the public interest requirements are mostly toothless, and I’d agree.

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