FCC cheers channel-sharing deal

Two television stations can successfully share the same channel, they claimed after a pilot project proved the idea’s feasibility.

The successful test from two Los Angeles-area broadcasters amounts to a victory for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its effort to free up space on the nation’s airwaves.

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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said on Friday that other stations should take note of the pilot project, follow suit and sell off their excess spectrum licenses.

“In business, it is very rare to be able to have your cake and eat it too,” Wheeler said in a statement. “It is my hope that broadcasters closely study the channel sharing pilot project report as they consider the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity offered by the upcoming incentive auction.”

Alan Popkin, director of TV engineering for KLCS, one of the two stations participating in the pilot, said the study showed that sharing channels was “technically viable” for broadcast stations.

“To the extent that similar combinations arise elsewhere, this report may serve as a baseline assessment of sharing,” he said in a statement.

In order to help reduce the amount of space that broadcasters use on the spectrum, Wheeler has encouraged stations to broadcast over the same channel. That would let them sell off the extra spectrum space, which wireless companies have been hungry for to keep up with the growing demand to stream video and play games on their wireless devices.

The study showed that it was possible to combine two — and maybe even three — high definition streams into a single channel.