Low-Power TV Trade Group Shuts Down

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A trade association representing 2,800 Class A and low-power TV stations said it has shut down and has canceled a scheduled fall trade show, citing operating costs, a lack of resources and hard times facing its members.

The Marietta, Ga.-based Community Broadcasters Association said it discontinued operations on July 15.

The CBA put out a statement that cited the difficult environment facing its constituents. It said government reports say 66 Class A and 320 LPTV and TV translator stations are “licensed and silent.”

The differences among those station categories are laid out in a Federal Communications Commission Web page about the digital-TV transition and how it affects those smaller stations.

The CBA also cited its recent fight, including in court, to ensure that digital-to-analog converter boxes have an “analog pass-through” feature. That feature was important to obtain because Class A and LPTV stations still broadcast in analog, even after the transition to digital that full-power TV stations completed in June.

Amy Brown

Stations below the full-power level don’t currently have a deadline to convert to digital.

The CBA also cited the inability of Class A and LPTV stations to require cable operators to carry their signals. An attempt by former Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin to have some 500 low-powered TV stations relabeled as full-power stations, to gain them must-carry privileges, faltered in 2008 due to lack of support from his fellow commissioners.

The economic downturn also has afflicted low-power TV stations, the CBA said.

Amy Brown, the former executive director of the CBA, said in a statement that a CBA survey indicated 40% of some 2,800 low-power and Class A stations expect they will have to shut down in the next year if they are not helped through the digital transition.

“These broadcasters have been neglected by the federal government, even though they have played and continue to play an important role that cannot be duplicated by full power stations,” Brown said in the statement. “These stations have more local ownership and more minority and female ownership by far than any other mass medium, wired or wireless. Yet, we have been repeatedly excluded from laws and regulations intended to ensure access by the public to diverse thoughts and ideas.”

Gary Herman, the CBA’s past president and more recently VP of technology, said that with “the potential benefits which many new technologies such as mobile TV and cellular distributed transmission systems can bring to the valuable spectrum residing within our Industry, let us hope that the brightest days for these diverse and creative operators are just around the corner.”