The FCC created the Low-Power Television (LPTV) service in 1982 to provide opportunities for locally-oriented television service in small communities. These communities may be in rural areas or individual communities within larger urban areas. LPTV service offers programming tailored to the interests of viewers in small localized areas in a less expensive and more flexible way than traditional full-service/power TV stations. It has created opportunities for new entry into television broadcasting, provided a means of local self-expression, and permitted fuller use of the broadcast spectrum. LPTV stations are currently undertaking their transition to digital operations.
LPTV Digital Transition
Although Congress established a hard deadline of June 12, 2009 for full-power TV stations to cease analog broadcasts and begin operating only in digital, the statutory deadline did not apply to low power television stations, TV translator and Class A television stations (referred to herein as "LPTV stations"). Therefore, while all full-power television stations have ceased over-the-air analog broadcasting, many LPTV stations are continuing to transmit analog signals.
The FCC established September 1, 2015 as the date for the termination of all analog low-power television service. Since that date, analog television should no longer exist in the United States. Until that time, LPTV stations were allowed to continue to operate their analog facilities.
LPTV stations had the opportunity to seek either an on-channel digital conversion of their existing analog facilities (“flash cut”) or construct and operate a second digital companion channel during the remainder of the digital transition. However all LPTV stations were required to decide a single digital channel to continue to operate after the September 1, 2015 transition date.
LPTV Station Operation
LPTV stations are operated by diverse groups and organizations - high schools and colleges, churches and religious groups, local governments, large and small businesses and individual citizens. LPTV modes of operation and programming vary widely. These include satellite-delivered programming services, syndicated programs, movies and a wide range of locally-produced programs. LPTV stations sometimes tailor program segments or entire schedules to specific viewer groups (on the basis of age, language or particular interest).
On the technical side, LPTV stations transmit on one of the standard VHF (2-13) or UHF (14-51) television channels. The distance at which a station can be viewed depends on a variety of factors - antenna height, transmitter power, transmitting antenna and the nature of the environment (rural or urban, hilly or flat terrain). The FCC does not allocate channels for LPTV service. Applicants select channels and apply during a given time period.
Analog LPTV stations are limited to an effective radiated power of 3 kilowatts (VHF) and 150 kilowatts (UHF). Digital LPTV stations are limited to an effective radiated power of 3 kilowatts (VHF) and 15 kilowatts (UHF). There are no limits on transmitter output power and on antenna height, as long as the tower structure has been registered with the FCC.
Owning an LPTV Station
There is no limit on the number of LPTV stations that may be owned by any one entity. Current broadcast licensees, cable operators and newspapers may own LPTV stations.
Applying For an LPTV Station
New applications for digital LPTV and TV translator stations are only accepted during designated filing window periods. Applications for new analog stations are no longer accepted. The FCC announces these window periods at least 30 days before the opening of the window. The announcement provides details on how to file. Interested applicants should periodically check the FCC's Media Bureau website for window announcements.
Interference Requirements for LPTV Stations
LPTV stations have “secondary spectrum priority” to full-service stations. This means LPTV stations must not cause interference to the reception of existing or future full-service television stations, must accept interference from full-service stations, and must yield to new full-service stations where interference occurs. For more information regarding interference requirements, see Part 74 subpart G of the Commission’s rules .
When there is interference between cable systems and LPTV stations, a “first in time, first in right” policy applies. Under this policy, the cable system or LPTV station that had initial use of the channel has first priority and is not responsible for correcting the interference.
Programming and Programming Content
LPTV stations are subject to a minimum of program-related regulations. There are no prescribed amounts of non-entertainment programming or local programming, and there are no limits on commercials, and no minimum hours of operation. However, the broadcast of obscene material is prohibited at all times, and the broadcast of indecent and profane material is prohibited between 6 A.M. and 10 P.M.
Ancillary and Supplementary Services
Licensed digital LPTV stations and permittees operating pursuant to Special Temporary Authority (STA) must submit an FCC Form 317 (www.fcc.gov/forms) - (Annual DTV Ancillary and Supplementary Services Report) by December 1st of each year. Stations must report whether they have provided ancillary and supplementary services at any time during the twelve-month period ending on the preceding September 30th. If they have, they are required to remit to the Commission an amount equal to 5% of the gross revenues derived from these services.