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PTFP Grant Applications Due March 17

Last year the program funded about $20.5 million

WASHINGTON — Noncommercial broadcasters have until March 17 to submit applications for Public Telecommunications Facilities Program grants from the National Telecommunications Information Agency.

PTFP doesn’t yet have a budget for FY 2011 and officials won’t know how many dollars are requested by stations until after the deadline.

For fiscal 2010, applicants sought $39.9 million; the program funded about $20.5 million. Although the program only had $18 million for grants in FY 2010, it awarded the additional sums through money recovered from grants that finished under budget, according to its website.

The PTFP funds the construction of new public radio and television stations and new non-broadcast public telecommunications facilities as well as digital conversion and equipment replacement at pubcast stations.

A summary of last year’s funding from an NTIA PFTP webinar. NTIA gives priority to projects that will originate the first local public radio service to a geographic area, then to first public radio signal projects that are repeaters or translators of other public radio stations. It also funds equipment for power increases such as a new transmitter or antenna.

For a station’s transition to HD Radio, NTIA anticipates funding digital-upgradable transmitters for new facilities. Grant recipients will be able to add, at their own expense, HD Radio exciters and additional power output modules as needed to PTFP-funded digital-upgradable transmitters.

Applicants requesting funding of full HD Radio transmitters must include a plan demonstrating readiness to begin digital broadcasting after receiving the PTFP funding. Applicants must also detail the proposed type of analog/digital signal combining and whether the station plans to use program-associated data or multicasting.

Changes for 2011

New this year: PTFP will not accept equipment applications when funds for that equipment also are requested from other federally-funded sources such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It’s up to broadcasters to make sure their equipment “wish lists” don’t overlap, according to NTIA.

PTFP has changed some priorities in its equipment replacement grants. For many years, NTIA has funded projects for digital studio-transmitter links and digital audio production equipment to help public radio stations as they prepare for conversion to digital technologies. NTIA began funding IBOC-compatible transmission equipment during the 2003 grant round and created a category, “Subpriority C,” to process digital conversion applications.

In recent years, the number of those applications has decreased significantly; in fiscal 2010, such applications represented less than 1 percent of federal funds requested, according to NTIA. It now will consider the replacement of analog radio equipment with digital as normal equipment replacement within the Priority 2 or 4A sections of the PTFP rules and has dropped Subpriority C.

NTIA also may fund digital radio equipment under Priority 4B, non-urgent replacement, and Priority 5, auxiliary studios and augmentation.

Stations also may apply for grants to fund standby power generators and uninterruptible power supplies under certain conditions. But NTIA believes it is premature to fund Common Alerting Protocol equipment for public broadcasting until the FCC clarifies CAP requirements for station participation and, therefore, will not accept applications for such equipment right now.

The matching grant applications due in March are for fiscal 2011. In 2010, NTIA awarded 125 PTFP grants for radio and television. The funding total came to nearly $20.5 million, including 73 radio awards and 51 television awards, plus one distance-learning grant. Radio awards ranged from $11,000 to plan for a new station on the Hualapai Reservation in Peach Springs, Ariz., to approximately $112,000 for KSUT(FM), Ignacio, Colo., to replace an automation system and install a voice-over production room, an emergency generator at the station, generators at two transmission sites, a hot standby for the main STL and air-conditioning for the production studios. KEXP(FM), Seattle received $52,000 so the University of Washington station could install a new HD Radio transmitter and increase HD power. At about $450,000, Northern Community Radio received the highest radio grant, to launch new station KBXE(FM) in Grand Rapids, Minn., including new studios and full origination capabilities.

NTIA outlines on its website the typical radio gear covered in the grants; see

Funding for the FY 2011 grant round relies on congressional approval. PTFP was operating under a Continuing Resolution through March 4.