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Local TV Stations Call for Fair Access for Community, Minority Voices on Cable

More than 150 class A and low-power TV stations petition the FCC to allow station upgrades that will provide spectrum permanence and access to cable

The Coalition for Local Television and more than 150 community television stations from around the country today called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move forward with a plan to preserve community and minority broadcast voices in the wake of the digital television transition.

The petition urges the FCC to invite public comment on a proposal that would allow Class A TV stations an opportunity to apply to convert to full power TV status, which would give these stations full permanent spectrum rights and access to cable distribution. The proposal would also provide a new opportunity for qualified Low Power TV stations to apply for Class A status.

The over 150 community stations on the petition broadcast a wide range of important programming, including religious, community, government access, Spanish language, African American, Korean, South Asian, local news, sports, children's and educational programming, and critical weather and emergency advisories.

The petition is available online at http://www.coalitionforlocaltv.ning.com in the Media Center.

Congress created low power television stations (LPTV) in 1982 to give minority and community voices an opportunity to be heard in the broadcast medium. These stations broadcast on otherwise unoccupied channels, but are secondary spectrum users, which means they can lose their channels to full power TV stations. In the 1992 Cable Act, only a few LPTV stations in very small rural communities were given cable carriage rights. In 1999, Congress recognized the important service provided by many LPTV stations and created a new "Class A" category, with permanent spectrum status but no additional cable rights.

Because Class A and Low Power stations are not making the jump to digital in 2009, and most are not on cable, many are in danger of losing the ability to reach the audiences they serve. A proposal supported by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin would address this problem by allowing Class A stations to apply for full-power status, and, as such, qualify for "must-carry" rights on cable television systems.

"Our stations provide a critical voice to communities and populations that are simply not represented or served by mainstream cable networks," said Mayela C. Rosales - EVP, Azteca America SWFL D'Latinos. "We applaud Chairman Martin for his leadership on this critical issue, and urge the Commission to act now in order to preserve this vital programming for the Americans who need it most."

It is predicted that when the DTV transition occurs in February 2009, some 2.3 million Hispanic households and 2.1 million African American households will lose one or more of their LPTV and "Class A" stations because many of these stations are not on cable, and most of the digital converter boxes being sold for over-the-air viewing on old TV sets block analog signals from passing through. The plan proposed by Chairman Martin will not solve this problem outright, but will help mitigate the loss by ensuring that some qualified stations have the opportunity to migrate to full power status and thus earn cable carriage rights, and it will open a new opportunity for LPTV stations to earn Class A status.

"For more than two decades, Class A and LPTV stations have broadened the social discourse in this country, meeting the needs of underserved American communities by addressing the issues that matter most to them. We must act now, so that the next generation can continue to enjoy this critical resource," said Randy Nonberg, President of Una Vez Mas.

About the Coalition for Local Television: The Coalition for Local Television is a group comprised of affiliated Class A and LPTV stations from across the country. http://coalitionforlocaltv.ning.com

Copyright (C) 2008 PR Newswire.