On December 12, 2023, the FCC adopted a Report and Order (“R&O”) providing certain qualifying Low Power TV (“LPTV”) stations with a limited opportunity to convert to Class A status. The R&O came after the FCC circulated a draft last month and implements the requirements of the Low Power Protection Act (“LPPA”), which is intended to provide eligible LPTV stations with a limited window of one year to apply for a Class A license. Unlike LPTVs, Class A television stations enjoy primary status, and thereby a measure of interference protection from full service television stations.
In order to qualify for a Class A license, LPTV stations must:
- have satisfied the same requirements applicable to stations that qualified for Class A status under the Community Broadcasters Protection Act of 1999 (“CBPA”), including the requirements with respect to locally produced programming during the 90-day period preceding the date of enactment of the LPPA (i.e., between October 7, 2022 and January 5, 2023);
- during that same 90-day period, have complied with the FCC’s requirements for LPTV stations;
- satisfy the Class A Service requirements of 47 CFR § 73.6001(b)-(d) or any successor regulation, which contain the requirements that Class A stations broadcast a minimum of 18 hours per day and broadcast an average of at least three hours per week of locally produced programming each quarter;
- demonstrate that it will not cause any interference as described in the CBPA; and
- demonstrate that, as of January 5, 2023, the station operated in a Designated Market Area (“DMA”) (as defined by the Nielsen Local TV Report) with not more than 95,000 television households. If the population in the station’s DMA later exceeds the threshold amount for specific reasons beyond the station’s control, this requirement will not apply.
The filing window will open on the date that the FCC’s rules implementing the LPPA become effective and cease one year thereafter. However, if an applicant faces circumstances beyond its control that prevent it from filing by the deadline, the FCC will examine such instances on a case-by-case basis.
The FCC also found that television translator stations are unlikely to satisfy the eligibility requirements of the LPPA, and that LPTV stations that have not completed their digital transitions prior to the 90-day period preceding the enactment of the LPPA are not eligible for Class A designation. Additionally, the FCC declined to extend must carry rights to LPPA Class A stations and declined to adopt a requested de minimis exception to the DMA eligibility requirement.
If you have any questions or would like assistance with converting your LPTV to Class A status, please contact your FHH attorney. Merry Christmas and happy holidays from FHH!