Update: Digital TV (fwd)

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 10 Apr 1997 16:31:40 -0700 (PDT)

Check it out (and fasten your seatbelts)

Gary Handman
Director
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
510-643-8566
ghandman@library.berkeley.edu

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 3 Apr 1997 16:41:25 -0400
From: Kevin Taglang <kevint@benton.org>
To: benton-compolicy@cdinet.com, upforgrabs-l@cdinet.com
Subject: Update: Digital TV

Update: Digital TV

By a 4-0 vote April 3, the FCC adopted rules that will allocate an
additional 6MHz of spectrum to television station owners so that they can
transmit digital TV signals.

The new Commission rules will:

* loan a second channel to the 1,544 TV stations in the US for the transition
to digital TV and to use the service to provide at least one free,
over-the-air broadcast channel

* require network affiliated stations in the Top 10 US markets to begin
broadcasting digital television within the next two years

* require all other commercial television stations to begin digital broadcasts
within 5 years

* require noncommercial stations, including PBS stations, to begin digital
broadcasts by April 2003

* require the return of spectrum currently used by broadcasters by 2006.
(Once returned, this spectrum will most likely be auctioned)

The aggressive rollout schedule, which is a binding rule, will mean that
digital broadcasts will be available to 14% of the American public by
December 1998, 30% by April 1998, and 53% by December 1999.

In short order, current broadcasters will be able to self-certify that they
are eligible for a digital broadcast license. They will then apply to the
FCC which expects to be able to turn around those requests "within days" of
receipt. Broadcasters with then receive a paired license, so if a station
were to lose an analog license for any reason, it would also forfeit its
digital broadcast license.

Broadcasters are *not* required to provide High Definition Television
(HDTV), nor are they required to simulcast analog programming on the
digital channel in the early years of the transition.

As to public interest obligations, the Commission adopted rules that will
ensure that, at a minimum, broadcasters current obligations -- to serve the
public interest, convenience, and necessity -- will be part of digital
television service. The Commission will examine any additional "specific,
noncommercial" requirements of digital broadcasters at a later date and in
coordination with the President's advisory committee. The Commission will
also examine how digital capacity -- the ability to air multiple programs
at the same time -- will affect "must-carry" rules upheld by the Supreme
Court earlier this week (see
http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/supct.March.1997.html).

The Commission's meeting was briefly disturbed this afternoon when a member
of the audience stood up and yelled "the Commission is in the pocket of the
broadcasters. This is a national disgrace." The man was quickly escorted
out of the meeting room.

During the same meeting, the Commission changed its rules to allow for
electronic filing of comments in its proceedings.