LPTV filing window opens this month!

Ever want to own your own television station? Your chance is just around the corner, as long as you’re willing to start small with a Low Power Television or TV translator station. The FCC has announced that the welcome mat for applications for new LPTV/translator stations (and major changes to existing stations) will be out as of August 25, if you want a rural station; if you’re looking for Bright Lights/Big City action, though, you’ll have to wait until next January.

In a Public Notice released June 29, the FCC announced a two-phase plan for the filing of applications for new digital-only LPTV and TV translator stations (we’ll call them LPTVs collectively) and for major changes of existing LPTVs. Also, any analog LPTVs that didn’t pick up a digital companion channel in the last go-round back in 2006 will now get another chance.

Phase 1 begins August 25, 2009, when the FCC will begin accepting, on a first-come, first-served basis, applications for new digital-only LPTV stations, major changes in existing LPTVs and digital companion channels in rural areas only.

What’s a “rural” area? To meet that condition, you must specify a transmitter site at least 75 milers (121 kilometers) from the reference points for any of the top 100 markets. (In an Appendix to the Public Notice, the Commission has helpfully listed not only all of the top 100 markets, but also their respective reference points.)

The geographical “rural only” restriction goes away when Phase 2 begins on January 25, 2010. From that date on, applications for new LPTVs, major changes and companion channels may be filed regardless of the proximity of the transmitter site to a major market.

Applications for new LPTVs and replacement translators must specify an in-core channel (i.e., Channels 2 through 51). Incumbent analog LPTVs looking for digital companion channels should also try to specify an in-core channel, but if nothing suitable is available, a channel between 52 and 59 may be used if the applicant goes through a whole circus full of hoops outlined in the FCC’s Public Notice.