Learn About DTV
Low Power TV(LPTV) Stations
The FCC created 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 may be individual communities within larger urban areas. LPTV stations are operated by diverse groups and organizations including high schools and colleges, churches and religious groups, local governments, large and small businesses and individual citizens. LPTV programming can include satellite-delivered programming services, syndicated programs, movies, and a wide range of locally-produced programs.
What Are Low Power TV (LPTV) Stations?
There are three categories of low-power television stations: (1) LPTV; (2) Class A; and (3) TV translator stations. A station's status can change between the three categories.
- LPTV stations are low-power stations that may rebroadcast TV signals and originate programming in any amount and in any combination.
- Class A TV stations are LPTV stations that, under the Community Broadcasters Protection Act of 1999, are entitled to greater interference protection than ordinary LPTV stations, if they broadcast a minimum of 18 hours per day and air at least three hours of locally-produced programming each week.
- A TV translator station rebroadcasts the programming of a full-power TV broadcast station on another channel. TV translator stations typically serve communities that cannot receive the signals of full-power over-the-air TV stations because the translator is too far away from the full-power station or because of intervening geography that disrupts a signal (such as uneven or mountainous terrain).
Reception Options With Low Power TV (LPTV)
Some low power stations have already made the switch to digital (or are in the process of transitioning to digital now). You can check the status of the low power stations that you may watch by contacting the low power station directly, or by checking the low power master list. If a low power station has not yet transitioned to digital, there are several options to continue to watch the analog low power stations.
- Keep an analog TV connected to a broadcast antenna to view analog LPTV and translator station broadcasts.
- Purchase and use a digital-to-analog converter box that has analog pass-through capability. Analog pass-through allows you to watch analog TV broadcasts as well as digital TV broadcasts through the converter box.
- Purchase and use a digital-to-analog converter box without analog pass-through capability, and then connect a "splitter" or antenna switch to receive both analog and digital broadcasts. Check with your consumer electronics retailer if you need instructions on how to connect the box to view broadcasts from both analog and digital stations.
- Purchase a digital television set with a built-in digital tuner that can receive both analog and digital stations.
- Subscribe to a cable television or other pay service that carries the analog station(s) you want.
To check for the full power station DTV signal that are available at your location, use the DTV Reception Maps available in FCC's Support Center.
Low Power Stations' Transition To Digital
The FCC will determine a deadline for these stations to transition to digital at a future date. However, the FCC has established two ways that a low-power station can earlier voluntarily transition to digital: (1) by applying for a digital companion channel ("DCC"); or (2) by submitting a digital flash cut ("DFC") application.
- A DCC is a second channel provided to the low-power station to transition to digital in much the same way as does a full-power station. Thus, a licensed DCC station operates on the digital channel at the same time that it operates on its analog channel. By the low-power digital transition deadline (a date yet to be set by the Commission), the low-power station will cease to operate on its analog channel and continue to operate only in digital. All DCC operations, including those of Class A licensees, have the "secondary" frequency use status of the LPTV service.
- DFC is where the low-power station plans to "flash cut" on its analog channel to digital operation, rather than concurrently operate on a second digital channel during the transition.
- Once they receive a DCC or DFC authorization, low-power stations may construct and commence operation of their digital facilities. Once it has started operating in digital, a DCC licensee has the discretion to continue or to terminate its analog operation.
If a low-power station has not made plans to operate in digital, as either a DCC or DFC station, and the station rebroadcasts the signal of a full power station, it must have a digital-to-analog converter in order to convert to analog the digital signal of a full-power station and re-broadcast the signal to its viewers in analog. Viewers of the low-power stations who use a converter box with their analog-only TVs and antennas to receive the post-transition digital signals of their full-power stations should have a box with an "analog pass-through" feature in order to continue to receive the analog broadcasts from their low-power stations.