FCC green-lights rules for TV spectrum auctions

The FCC formally adopted rules today for the television spectrum auctions slated for mid-2015. Most of the provisions align with what the FCC has said leading up to today’s announcement. The commission formally declined to provide protections to low-power TV stations and TV translators. Neither facility category is eligible for protection under its current rules, the commission’s order said,  and shielding them would “unduly constrain flexibility in the repacking process and undermine the likelihood of meeting the objectives for the incentive auction.” The commission will open a special filing window for LPTV and translators that provide “important services” to select new channels, and establish an special process for relocating displaced stations. The report and order also lays out a timetable for participating broadcasters to vacate their channels.

CPB Board hears troubling predictions for spectrum auctions and repacking

CPB Board members got an ominous preview Monday of the corporation’s upcoming white paper about spectrum issues in public broadcasting. At a meeting at CPB’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., Harry Hawkes of Booz & Co.’s media and technology practice told board members that if the FCC goes ahead with plans to clear 120 MHz of spectrum for use by mobile devices, 110 to 130 pubcasting stations will need to shift due to repacking even if their operators don’t participate in the auction. “That means that one-third of the system could have to change channels,” noted Vincent Curren, CPB’s c.o.o. “This will likely be more disruptive than the digital transition. This will be a major undertaking for our industry over the next several years.”

CPB commissioned the white paper, due out early next year, to inform policy discussions within the system about spectrum issues. The FCC announced last week that spectrum auctions will be conducted in mid-2015; repacking of the remaining bandwidth is expected to occur soon after.

Arizona PBS installing seven rural translators

Arizona PBS in Phoenix is bringing seven new digital translators online between June 24 and late September, extending its service to rural areas of the state. The repeater transmitters will bring HD service and extended channel access to viewers in and around Prescott, Flagstaff, Cottonwood, Sedona, Globe, Miami, Williams, Snowflake, Show Low and Yuma. Once initial work is complete, the station plans to request FCC permission to maximize coverage of its digital signal, said Karl Voss, chief broadcast engineer at KAET. For example, the new transmitter in Flagstaff will initially broadcast at 15 watts but go up to 100 watts when the station maximizes its digital signal. Grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Public Television Digital Transition Grant Program, CPB’s Digital Distribution Fund and the Kemper & Ethel Marley Foundation covered the $410,000 cost of buying and installing the translators.