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Clyburn: Time to Take Look at Channels 5, 6 for Radio

Commissioner touches radio issues in speech to community broadcasters

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn generated some buzz with her comments at the recently concluded Community Radio Conference.

The Democrat touched on several topics of interest including re-purposing TV Channels 5 and 6 for radio, NCE applications, the upcoming LPFM window, and HD Radio. The event was held in St. Paul, Minn., by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.

Perhaps most notable was Clyburn’s comments regarding the possible use of Channels 5 and 6 for radio, now that the commission is looking at its spectrum allocation policies more closely as part of its national broadband plan. As RW has reported, the possibilities in such a move have been generating some attention, and the comments by Clyburn bring the topic back into the headlines.

“These channels have proven difficult for television broadcasting, and I have a hard time imagining that they would fare much better as additional spectrum for mobile broadband use,” she said. “This spectrum is not well suited for digital transmissions.” She said it’s possible Channels 5 and 6 could be used for LPFM, expanded NCE use and AM broadcasters.

However, she’s did not suggest that the commission move today to reallocate this spectrum for radio. Clyburn said it’s “time for the agency to take a serious look at where these services fit within the overall spectrum plan, and that Channels 5 and 6 may be a good home. I will be encouraging my colleagues to take a look at this issue as we move forward with a long-term spectrum program.” She encouraged radio broadcasters to weigh in to the commission on the issue.

The commissioner also said the agency is moving ahead with the 2007 NCE FM window; and she told attendees to expect “a flurry” of point system orders from the FCC over the next six months authorizing new NCE stations. Clyburn encouraged the NFCB to continue efforts to help new permittees get their stations built and on-air.

Regarding LPFM, Clyburn said there’s an order circulating on the eighth floor about whether to reconsider a translator cap of 10 per entity. She said she would continue to push for swift movement on the issue, which Clyburn sees as key opening the next LPFM application window.

She also encouraged community stations to think of partnering with commercial stations to program HD2 and HD3 channels, and to explore agreements to use translators to rebroadcast community station programming as analog signals. The FCC has imposed “virtually no limits on the use of HD2 and HD3 channels,” she said, and noted that the Media Bureau routinely permits FM translators to rebroadcast multicast channels.

The commissioner has also laucnhed a blog, called “Clyburn Chat,” on the commission’s Web site.