It’s ‘Go Digital or Go Dark’ Time for LPTVs

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—“High midday” is quickly approaching for the low-power tv stations and translators that haven’t already made the swap to digital broadcasting, with a tough deadline of July 13 having been set by the FCC.LPTV/translator operators have been exempted from the June 2009 mandate which required cessation of analog transmissions by all full-power stations, and have been initially given till Sept. 1, 2015 to transition to digital. Some 4 months earlier than that due date—in consideration of the spectrum public sale and repacking strikes being made by full-power stations—the fee prolonged the LPTV digital deadline to mid-summer of this 12 months.According to the most recent FCC figures, there are some 1,985 low-power TV broadcasters (LPTVs) and three,306 TV translators licensed to function. This mixed facility determine is much better than the variety of full-power stations that needed to transfer away from analog transmissions greater than a decade in the past. However, because the time for both going digital or going darkish is quickly approaching, most of these within the business concerned with LPTV and translator conversions expressed optimism that the deadline might be met.Staying Ahead of the CurveARK Multicasting is closely concerned in LPTV, proudly owning or managing practically 300 stations nationwide. CEO Josh Weiss, mentioned the Dallas-based firm dedicated to transferring right into a fully-digital surroundings early on.“Our first digital development permits have been granted in 2006 and we started constructing these out by 2009,” he mentioned. “Meeting the deadline is not going to be an issue for us. We nonetheless have round 30 stations that must be transformed, with most of those being rebuilt on a brand new channel as a result of repack. They have been off the air for this motive and [will return as digital].”Weiss famous that generally, the conversion wasn’t so simple as simply changing an exciter.“We discovered that for our broadcast web marketing strategy, the ability ranges are going to alter, so the transmitter goes to alter, and the antennas might have to alter,” he mentioned. “We discovered that it’s maybe higher in some circumstances to rebuild on a special tower or change areas. The majority of our stations have, or are, being rebuilt with a brand new antenna, a brand new transmitter and a brand new exciter.”A spokesperson for one other broadcast group with numerous LPTVs and translators in its holding reported that there must be no downside in assembly the low-power analog-to-digital deadline, as greater than 95 % of their transmission amenities have already been transformed, with the remaining websites both able to flash lower to digital previous to July 13 or completely shut down. The spokesperson, who requested to not be recognized, defined that the amenities being taken off the air have been, generally, fairly outdated and had outlived their usefulness as they’re positioned in thinly populated areas that are actually served by different alerts after the most recent full-power repack and maximization.‘A Few Analog Stations Still Cooking Out There’Lee Miller, the chief director of  the Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance, a commerce affiliation representing LPTVs, reviews that generally, stations that are a part of the group are in good condition to fulfill the FCC’s deadline. “For our members generally, this isn’t actually an issue,” mentioned Miller. “Although, there are nonetheless fairly a couple of analog stations nonetheless cooking on the market.”Asked if the unreimbursed value of digital conversion may be an element within the choice by some operators to throw within the towel, Miller mentioned that this shouldn’t have occurred, as positive factors tremendously outweigh the bills“Right now, nearly the one folks choosing up analog stations are cable corporations,” he mentioned. “Most of our membership hasn’t complained about having to go digital. It’s actually a disgrace to let a station go darkish when there are different options. We’ve been serving to members inside our alliance discover these options.”Weiss added that with their transfer to digital, low-power stations may help pave the best way for NextGen TV broadcasting.“LPTVs have at all times been robust in group service by offering native programming,” he mentioned. “The business additionally has the flexibility to help in making the transition to ATSC 3.0. Most analog stations are stepping into conditions the place they will flash lower to ATSC 1.0 with gear that may [later] be used for 3.0.”With the shifting of some inhabitants facilities, translators have develop into more and more necessary in serving outlying viewers. John Terrill, president of the National Translator Association, says that total, the march to take the nation’s voluminous variety of low-power transmitters to digital has gone nicely, noting that solely a comparatively small quantity may be left behind.“Most, however a only a few, have transformed to digital, and made the transfer on time,” mentioned Terrill. “There are a couple of analog stations which haven’t transformed, however they need to achieve this by July 13 or flip it off. I don’t know what number of stations have been granted a development allow and didn’t construct.”Terrill added that it was extraordinarily necessary for LPTV and translator operators to examine with the FCC to be sure that if they’d transformed to digital, the fee’s data mirrored this. The LPTV/translator digital/analog standing database is offered for searches on a state-by-state foundation by the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (LMS).“Mark Colombo, the FCC’s affiliate chief of the Video Division, assured on the NTA conference in May that stations indicated on the listing as analog as of the July deadline may have their license cancelled,” mentioned Terrill.(Image credit score: ARK Multicasting)Consultants Report Relative CalmThe LPTV digital conversion initiative appears to be going nicely, judging from feedback by people at a number of engineering consulting teams.“I’ve solely had one low-power shopper not too long ago,” mentioned Bill Meintel, companion and technical advisor at Meintel, Sgrignoli, & Wallace. “All the others have already made the transition.”Meintel mentioned that almost all of LPTV work was caused by the current full-power station repacking. “We’ve labored with dozens of LPTV stations that have been displaced as a result of repack, however a variety of these have been already working in digital earlier than being displaced. I don’t actually keep in mind any analog operations, however there should have been some. We did an entire bunch of relocations.”Erik Swanson, a broadcast engineer with Hatfield & Dawson Consulting Engineers, is working with a few half dozen low-power shoppers, with severa working a pretty big variety of transmitters.“They’re making an attempt to fulfill the conversion deadline,” mentioned Swanson, noting that homeowners have been eligible for a six-month grace interval past the July deadline in the event that they’d utilized to the FCC earlier than its March 2021 deadline for extensions.Swanson mentioned he wasn’t conscious of any frequent denominator in reference to stations that haven’t made the swap but. “I’d think about in some circumstances that it has been that they simply haven’t gotten round to this. Others are nursing analog alongside as a result of some viewers haven’t converted.” He was optimistic that the entire broadcasters he was working with would meet the deadline. “None have requested for assist in terminating their licenses.”Carl Gluck, a senior engineer at Carl T. Jones consulting agency, reported that he’s working with a variety of shoppers that collectively function a pretty big variety of low-power and translator amenities, and is optimistic that none will fail to make the July deadline.“The intention is that this isn’t going to occur,” mentioned Gluck. “Our shoppers need to transfer on.” He reported that not one of the low-power shoppers he’s helping has thought of surrendering their licenses. “Right now, it’s ‘get it on the air and make enhancements later with a special antenna, larger energy transmitter, or a better antenna top.’”Vendors: ‘All is Well’Manufacturers of exciters, transmitters and different RF gear that could be wanted for digital conversions report too that essentially the most LPTV gamers apparently took the FCC’s mandate significantly and deliberate their digital conversions far sufficient prematurely to fulfill the July deadline.“We’ve been pretty lively in the course of the previous six or extra months in low-power initiatives,” mentioned Joe Turbolski, vp of gross sales and advertising at Hitachi-Comark. “But I’ve solely seen a couple of last-minute requests.”Graziano Casale, Broadcast & Media account supervisor at Rohde & Schwarz USA, additionally reported no eleventh-hour flurry of LPTV exercise. “We have seen, beginning at first of 2021, an uptick of curiosity and new initiatives within the LPTV area, however not a lot final minute pushed by the analog sundown.,” mentioned Casale. “This is a transparent signal that prospects have been ready months prematurely for the occasion and punctiliously made their choice and their plan accordingly.”Nick VanHaaster, district gross sales supervisor at GatesAir, additionally reported the absence of any down-to-the-wire requests for gear. “The upward swing of curiosity began in April, with numerous stations making the request to transform by the summer season,” he mentioned. “Some of those requests got here from stations that have been already operating digital on different translators, however had not but managed to get a couple of smaller outlying areas transformed.”VanHaaster added that GatesAir was prepared to help procrastinators if the necessity ought to come up. “Since our manufacturing plant is native, we’re in a position to ship on many last-minute requests.”So, be it both a flash lower to digital by the few remaining LPTV holdouts who intend to maintain broadcasting, or a last push of the “off” button on July 13, the ultimate chapter on U.S. analog TV broadcasting is about to finish.Franken FM Gets Stay Of ExecutionAlthough U.S. analog tv broadcasting is ready to develop into extinct on July 13, the FCC is permitting one class of analog transmission to proceed in TV spectrum after that date, at the very least quickly. This is the considerably controversial “Franken FM,” which makes use of the TV Ch. 6 (82-88 MHz) FM audio provider (87.75 MHz) to transmit audio programming unrelated to the video being broadcast on that channel. The observe has been round for greater than a decade, with these low-power FMs popping up in lots of areas the place Ch. 6 wasn’t being occupied by a full-power station.It was thought by many who the July moratorium on LPTV analog operations would spell the tip for the Franken FMs, however the FCC has granted the operator of 1 Ch. 6 LPTV station (KBKF-LD) in San Jose, Calif. Special Temporary Authority (STA) to proceed transmitting an analog FM provider together with its ATSC 3.0 digital sign.(Image credit score: Future)The STA, which was granted on June 4 and runs for six months, is conditional, permitting the station to function on this hybrid digital/analog mode with the Commission with the ability to modify or terminate it in circumstances of inference to different licensed spectrum customers or “for another motive upon written discover.”The operator of KBKF-LD, Venture Technologies Group, claims that such hybrid operation is permitted throughout the ATSC A/322 customary and is working with its 3.0 sign occupying 5.509 MHz of the Ch. 6 six MHz bandwidth and that it had acquired no interference complaints after three months of transmitting on this hybrid vogue.Under the phrases of the STA, Venture is required to submit written reviews at common intervals delineating “any reviews of interference to different licensed customers” in addition to any interference noticed “between KBKF-LD’s audio and video providers that in any manner limits protection of its video.” The STA additionally requires the station to offer “at the very least one stream of synchronized video and audio programming on the ATSC 3.0 portion of [its] spectrum on a full time (24×7) foundation.” In addition, the station additionally has to exhibit that its common audio and video protection will not be impacted by operation within the hybrid digital/analog mode. At least one producer of antennas and RF gear, Jampro, is providing a combiner that accommodates such hybrid operations, the “FM Sidekick.” For further details about “Franken FMs” and the July 13 sunsetting of analog TV broadcasting, see Randy Stein’s article—“ Time Running Out for FM6 Stations?” at TV Tech’s sister publication 

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