FCC urged to strike digital blow against UHF handicap

Originally published in Current, Nov. 25, 1996

Public TV told the FCC last week that it has a singular chance "to alleviate the historic UHF/VHF coverage inequity." In assigning the channels for the transition to digital broadcasting, the commission should give a better break to UHF stations that now operate below their assigned maximum power, according to America's Public Television Stations and PBS in a joint filing Nov. 22.

Those stations should be permitted enough transmitter power and antenna height to cover the entire area that the could cover now if they used maximum allowable power, APTS/PBS said. Some UHF stations now operate below maximum power because of UHF transmitters' high electricity costs.

And if a station doesn't choose to spend the money for full power and height, it should be permitted to locate small booster or translator transmitters to cover parts of that same entire area.

Like other broadcasters filing last week, public TV urged the FCC to abandon its proposal to pack most of the digital channels in the band between 7 and 51, and use the entire available stretch from 2 to 69, according to APTS Vice President Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis.

That will not only improve the odds for digital signals that "replicate" the reach of present analog transmitters, but will leave spectrum for more translator stations that extend public TV signals into valleys and small settlements.

While APTS/PBS endorsed the new channel assignment table cranked out by the TV industry's Broadcasters Caucus as an alternative to the FCC's proposed table, public TV said the new table needs to be refined [link to Broadcast Caucus table on web site of National Association of Broadcasters].

APTS/PBS also urged the commission not to delete unused reserved noncommercial channels from its allocation table, as it proposes, unless there is no other way to give digital channels to all eligible present broadcasters. If some must be deleted, they should be replaced with substitutes, the filing said.


High-def test pattern uplinked by PBS

PBS started the first regular satellite feeds of digital high-definition TV last week. The MPEG-2 compliant bitsream--actually, a test pattern--will be beamed 25 hours a week to help with over-the-air tests by experimental HDTV stations. Commercial test stations are on-air in Raleigh, N.C., and Washington, D.C., and several public TV stations plan to fire up their own test transmitters.

WGBH in Boston, and WMVS in Milwaukee, are the latest PTV stations to join public TV's Digital Broadcasting Alliance founded this summer by KCTS in Seattle, Oregon Public Broadcasting and WETA in Washington.

The Advanced Television Technology Center located next to PBS headquarters in Alexandria, Va., is providing technical aid, including an HDTV bitstream generator built by the British firm Snell & Wilcox, which also developed the test pattern with PBS. The network said it was willing to reschedule the test-pattern feed to meet users' needs.



To Current's home page

Current Briefing on the transition to digital and HDTV

Outside link: Broadcasters Caucus home page on web site of National Association of Broadcasters.


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