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Clock Could Start Ticking for ‘Franken FMs’

LPTV rulemaking explores analog shutdown

Those low-power television stations that find it lucrative to operate as pseudo radio stations on analog Channel 6 have known they were on borrowed time.

The FCC initially left LPTVs out of TV’s digital transition but has now begun a rulemaking seeking public comment on whether to set a hard deadline, such as mid-2012, for them to convert to digital and cease analog operations, as their full-power television brethren have done. Such a move presumably would also bring a close to the era of “Franken FMs.”

LPTVs that operate as radio stations just below the noncommercial FM band technically are legal but take advantage of a loophole in the rules, according to critics, who say these operations not only violate the spirit of the rules but cause interference to licensed FMs, a charge the LPTVs dispute.

The agency also is asking whether “to require existing analog and digital low-power television stations in the 700 MHz band (Channels 52–69) to cease operations by a date certain and to submit displacement applications or discontinue operations altogether.”

There are about 7,500 low-power television stations, a collective category that includes about 520 Class A TVs, 2,450 licensed LPTVs and 4,560 TV translator stations.

The Monster Mash May Be Ending” (April 2010)