Low Power Protection Act Legislation Introduced

Posted on December 30th, 2021 by

Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have introduced legislation called The Low Power Protection Act that is designed to protect low power television stations in smaller more rural markets from being displaced.  The proposed protection mechanism is to allow those stations to convert to Class-A television stations.  Class-A television stations enjoy interference protection in exchange for meeting certain operating and programming obligations.

As proposed, the legislation would direct the FCC to issue a rule that entitles low power television stations in Designated Market Areas with no more than 95,000 television households.  The text of the bill can be found here, and those wanting to subscribe to alerts regarding the bill’s progress can do so at the “Get Alerts” link at this page.

The last time low power television stations could qualify for Class A status was over two decades ago in 1999.  To do so, stations had to certify that they met certain operating and local programming criteria as of a specific date.  Based upon the draft legislation, low power television stations in markets below 95,000 television households would only qualify for Class A status if they were meeting locally produced programming requirements 90 days prior to enactment of the legislation (i.e., when it is signed into law).  The current FCC rule is similar – conditioning Class A eligibility by a date that was 90 days prior to adoption of the 1999 legislation.  While the text of this legislation will change during markup and committee, stations should be alert to the strong likelihood that qualifying for Class A status may require actions well in advance of any FCC rulemaking or rule adoption.  Currently, Class A stations are required to 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.