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The Clock Is Winding Down for Channel 6 Backdoor to FM

Regular readers may recall that I’ve been doggedly pursuing the minor phenomenon of analog TV channel 6 broadcasters exploiting their audio signal’s proximity to the FM dial to become radio broadcasters. At present the only analog TV stations capable of exploiting this backdoor are low-power TV stations which were not required to go digital this year.

Photo credit: Yukon White Light / flickr

Photo credit: Yukon White Light / flickr

However, the future viability of that idea became a little less secure this past week when the FCC’s Media Bureau announced (PDF) that beginning Oct. 27 it will end the protection of channel 6’s audio spectrum in areas where a formerly analog channel 6 moved to a new UHF channel when it went digital.

In effect, the FCC is just saying that now that in places where there’s now no analog or digital channel occupying the space next to 87.7 FM, there’s no point in expecting FM stations to avoid encroaching on it. What it doesn’t mean is any sudden increase in available noncommercial licenses at the far left end of the dial. This is because no application window for this class of licenses is scheduled in the near future.

It might allow a few existing noncommercial stations occupying frequencies from 87.9 to 88.5 or so to either raise their power, relocate their transmitter or otherwise improve their signal because they won’t have to protect the vacant channel 6 space any longer. Yet, this might be complicated by the upcoming January 25, 2010 filing window for new digital-only LPTV stations. VHF channel 6 spectrum space should still be in the offing for new LPTV stations, which could block any significant expansion of noncommercial FM into the area of 87.7 FM. However, none of these new LPTV stations will be analog. So they won’t be broadcasting an audio signal that will be heard on the FM dial.

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