L.A.’s KLCS to participate in nation’s first TV channel-sharing pilot

By Dru Sefton

Two Los Angeles television stations, one commercial and the other public, will pilot the first television channel-sharing project in the country, CTIA — The Wireless Association announced today.

The noncom KLCS, licensed to the L.A. Unified School District, and bilingual KJLA are voluntarily participating in the experiment. CTIA, an international organization representing the wireless communications industry, is supervising the initiative in conjunction with the Association of Public Television Stations.

“APTS has been involved in the development of this pilot in support of our member station KLCS,” Lonna Thompson, APTS c.o.o., told Current. “We support this pilot project because we think it will provide valuable information to our member stations considering whether to engage in their own channel-sharing effort.”

The FCC is offering a channel-sharing option to stations as part of the upcoming voluntary spectrum auctions, which will free bandwidth for use by the growing number of mobile devices. Broadcasters participating in the auction have three choices: give up their licenses entirely, share their 6-MHz TV channel with another station or swap a UHF channel for VHF.

The goal of this pilot program, the announcement said, is to show that channel sharing would allow over-the-air broadcasters to continue transmitting a high-quality signal while reducing engineering infrastructure costs. The FCC says stations may decide how to divvy up a shared 6-MHz channel as long as each delivers at least one standard-definition digital primary channel. Each primary channel will remain subject to all FCC obligations and must-carry rights.

KLCS reaches more than 16 million households throughout southern California with its primary channel and four multicasts. Its mainly educational programming reflects the licensee, the L.A. Unified School District. KJLA is a bilingual commercial station that is part of LATV, a national network that provides music and entertainment programming. KJLA also carries English, Vietnamese and Mandarin on its nine multicasts and reaches some 4.6 million households.

Following FCC approval, the stations will share a channel for several months. They will conduct technical tests and try various HD and SD video feeds to explore the feasibility and limits of sharing. In the end, KLCS will host KJLA’s content and transmit a shared stream combining primary and multicast content for both.

After the pilot period, the stations will submit a report to the FCC to inform other broadcasters curious about channel-sharing possibilities.

Alan Popkin, KLCS director of TV engineering, said in the announcement that the station hopes that the pilot “will provide broadcasters around the country with real world data to evaluate the opportunity to channel share in the upcoming spectrum auction.”

“Since spectrum is a finite and valuable resource,” said Steve Largent, president of CTIA, “channel sharing is truly a win-win-win for consumers, broadcasters and wireless providers.”

And Dennis Wharton, spokesperson for the National Association of Broadcasters, said that organization looks forward to any new information arising from the program. “On a technical level,” he said, “one of the main challenges to channel sharing concerns the ability of the sharers to offer new and innovative services as they are limiting their available spectrum.”

Questions, comments, tips? sefton@current.org

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