Over the past year I’ve been tracking the mini-phenomenon of a few low-power TV stations on channel 6 using their signal as a back-door to the FM dial rather than real TV stations. This situation occurs because the audio portion of analog TV channel 6 bumps up against the far left end of the FM dial. Full-power TV stations on channel 6 have gone digital, and some have moved to other spectrum space. In either case their audio is no longer heard on the FM dial. But LPTV stations were not required to go digital last year, and so are still heard.
While this loophole remains open for existing stations, new LPTV stations will not be able to take advantage. Today the FCC released a notice [PDF] saying that applicants for new LPTV stations must amend their applications to be digital before May 24 of this year.
It looks like there are seven channel 6 applications pending. Who knows if any of the applicants were planning on taking advantage of proximity to the FM dial. But if any were, that option is now off the table.
At this point I think it’s safe to say the countdown timer is ticking closer to zero on channel 6 on FM. Last October the FCC ended protection of channel 6 signals from interference coming from FM stations. As the commission whittles away at analog LPTV it’s just a matter of time until the Media Bureau gets around to setting a mandatory digital transition date for LPTV stations. I think this is especially true given the fact that the FCC is seriously looking at reallocating broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband.
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