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The FCC spectrum auction is over: What it means to Houston-area viewers

(To avoid confusion I will use the term “frequencies” to refer to physical channel numbers and “channels” to refer to the individual program streams. For example: Channel 14, KETH, broadcasts on frequency 24.)

The Federal Communications Commission recently completed the first reverse auction of spectrum space, which moved several channels out of the TV band and reassigned them to wireless communications. As a result of the auction, stations broadcasting on frequencies above 36 will have to relocate to lower frequencies.

It was a challenge to work out all the channel moves, but in the end, all the UHF frequencies that are available for assignment in the Houston market will be occupied. Some frequencies will not be available in this area. Frequencies 16-18 are reserved for public safety broadcasting (police and fire dispatch). Other frequencies are too close to frequencies being used in adjacent markets and cannot be assigned to stations here.

In the auction, low-power stations were not protected and most were displaced by full-power stations. However, Class A low-power stations were protected and participated alongside full-power stations.

In the Houston area, of the 17 full-power and 2 Class A low-power stations, 11 are remaining on their correct frequencies, and 8 will be shifting to different frequencies between December 1, 2018 and April 12, 2019. No stations will be entering into channel-sharing arrangements.

Here’s a summary of what’s going to happen in Houston:

Frequency 7, KDHU-LD – low VHF, not impacted
Frequency 8, KUHT – no change
Frequency 11, KHOU – no change
Frequency 13, KTRK – no change
Frequency 15, KVVV-LD – fate unknown; not available for full-power due to interference from KFDM in Beaumont
Frequency 19, KTXH (channel 20) – no change
Frequency 21, KVQT-LDdisplaced by KZJL
Frequency 22, KUVM-LD (channel 10) – displaced by KTMD
Frequency 23, KLTJ (channel 22) – no change
Frequency 24, KETH (channel 14) – no change
Frequency 26, KRIV – no change
Frequency 28, KUGB-CD – no change
Frequency 30, KCVH-LD – displaced by KXLN
Frequency 32, KPXB (channel 49) – no change
Frequency 34, KUVM-CD – moving to frequency 20
Frequency 35, KPRC (channel 2) – no change
Frequency 36, KFTH (channel 67) – no change
Frequency 38, KIAH (channel 39) – moving to frequency 34
Frequency 39, KZHO-LD (channel 38) – out of band
Frequency 41, KUBE (channel 57) – moving to frequency 31
Frequency 42, KTBU (channel 55) – moving to frequency 33
Frequency 43, KHLM-LD – out of band
Frequency 44, KZJL (channel 61) – moving to frequency 21
Frequency 45, KXLN – moving to frequency 30
Frequency 46, KBPX-LD – out of band
Frequency 47, KYAZ (channel 51) – moving to frequency 25
Frequency 48, KTMD (channel 47) – moving to frequency 22

Displaced and out-of-band LPTV stations can apply for a new channel assignment in the VHF band, attempt to share with other stations, or go off the air.

So here’s how the new broadcast band will look:

Frequency Call sign PSIP (virtual ch)
8 KUHT 8
11 KHOU 11
13 KTRK-TV 13
14 KBTX, Bryan 3
15 KFDM, Beaumont 6
16 reserved, public safety n/a
17 reserved, public safety n/a
18 reserved, public safety n/a
19 KTXH 20
20 KUVM-CD 34
21 KZJL 61
22 KTMD 47
23 KLTJ 22
24 KETH-TV 14
25 KYAZ 51
26 KRIV 26
27 KBTV, Beaumont 4
28 KUGB-CD 28
29 KITU, Beaumont 34
30 KXLN-DT 45
31 KUBE-TV 57
32 KPXB-TV 49
33 KTBU 55
34 KIAH 39
35 KPRC-TV 2
36 KFTH-DT 67