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FCC to NCE FMs: Make No Assumptions about Channel 6

Media Bureau to dismiss apps that fail to protect analog Channel 6 — for now

Noncom reserved-band FM applicants need to protect TV Channel 6 as long as those Channel protections are in place — regardless of the date a potentially impacted TV station ends its analog service.

That’s the word from the commission, which issued “guidance” about the issue this week. It’s received lots of inquiries about how long radio must adhere to Channel 6 protections, as well as applications from some who assumed in their calculations that those protections will go away this Feb. 18, the day after the original DTV transition deadline.

The Media Bureau said other NCE FM applicants have asked for waivers of the Channel 6 protections based on the premise that Channel 6 allotments will be vacated once TV goes all-digital.

In order to be clear, the Media Bureau says it will dismiss applications that don’t satisfy Channel 6 protection requirements unless the paperwork includes a letter of consent to a potentially affected Channel 6 station. The consent must be unconditional.

NCE FM applications must take into account all stations licensed to operate on TV Channel 6 as of Sept. 7, 2008. Any tentatively selected NCE FM application that assumes Channel 6 protections will go away when demonstrating compliance or asking for a waiver will be dismissed.

Amendments and petitions for reconsideration based on the termination of Channel 6 analog operations later “will not be entertained,” said the bureau in its notice.

The bureau is considering groups of competing applications filed during the October 2007 NCE FM filing window and tentatively selecting applications to be granted. The conditions laid out above pertain. The bureau said it wouldn’t be fair to applicants who adhered to the Channel 6 protection rules to then later accept or approve applications that didn’t go by the rules.

Recognizing that the completion of the DTV transition does create opportunities for NCE FM applicants to improve their facilities, the FCC said it will announce a date in the future when it will begin accepting applications, “premised on the termination of analog TV Channel 6 transmissions.”

The commission has said it will open a proceeding to look at whether Channel 6 protection needs to be retained and seek public input on that question after the DTV transition ends.