Public Television Station Digital Transition Grant Program

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ordered all television broadcasters to initiate the broadcast of a digital television signal and to cease analog television broadcasts.

The result of this conversion will be a new, high performance television system that is highly efficient in its
use of the radio spectrum.

This will free spectrum to enable the introduction of new wireless telecommunications services such as mobile wireless Internet access.

Before spectrum can be reallocated to new uses, all television stations must make the transition to the new broadcast system.

Lagging far behind in this transition are the rural public television stations, which depend on viewer donations and public funds to buy the expensive digital equipment.

A significant number of stations have not completed the transition, and many are rural stations that have no funding to proceed.

The deadline for initiating digital broadcasting was May 2003, and all waivers of that date have expired.

These stations are in violation of their FCC licenses.

On February 17, 2009, all analog broadcasting is scheduled to cease, meaning that stations that have not transitioned will stop broadcasting any television signal.

In addition to the public losing the benefits of public television programming, this will leave many school systems without educational programming they count on for curriculum compliance.

This grant program assists rural public television stations in making the transition to digital television signal broadcasting.
Examples of Funded Projects

The grant will enable the purchase of a full power transmitter, 14 translators, master control equipment, and standby power.

The grant will fund DTV translators.

It will also fund purchase and installation of a DTV video distribution system to mirror the programming storage functions of a similar system.

In addition, the grant will fund a digital media server and automation system.

The grant will finance a full power digital television transmission facility serving an area that is currently served by six low power analog translators.

Funding will cover a new tower, building, transmission equipment, and associated processing, monitoring, and test equipment.

The grant will fund an emergency backup power generation system to provide a reliable broadcast during power outages.

The grant will fund a studio-to-transmitter communication system, a transmission link for High Definition programming, and a dynamic Program and System Information Protocol generation system.

The grant will fund a three hop microwave system to deliver the digital signal 140 miles The grant will allow the conversion of two translators to digital.

The translators serve areas hidden from the transmitters by terrain.

It will also provide interconnection from the headquarters to the translator sites using a vacant UHF channel.

The grant will finance the upgrade of microwave systems that will allow two stations to deliver standard and high definition signals.

Agency - Department of Agriculture

Established in 1862, the Department of Agriculture serves all Americans through anti-hunger efforts, stewardship of nearly 200 million acres of national forest and rangelands, and through product safety and conservation efforts. The USDA opens markets for American farmers and ranchers and provides food for needy people around the world.

Program Accomplishments

During fiscal year 2006, 10 applicants received grants.

Uses and Use Restrictions

Grants may be used to install digital television facilities through purchase or lease (up to three years of lease costs); and for associated engineering and environmental studies.

All broadcast facilities acquired under this program must be capable of delivering both digital television (DTV, sometimes called standard definition) and high definition television (HDTV) at both the interim and final channel power authorizations.

Grant funds may be used to fund facilities directly connected to the digital transition of the broadcast signal such as: digital transmitters; digital translators; transmitting antennas; new towers or improvements to existing towers necessary for antenna installation; tower ground infrastructure such as land, buildings, fencing, standby power, and where commercial power is unreliable, power generation and conditioning facilities; studio to transmitter/translator communication links; television program production and management equipment; datacasting equipment; and subject to RUS approval, other facilities directly necessary for the digital transition of the broadcast signal.

Grants shall not be used: to fund operations or for facilities not owned by the applicant (except for leased facilities as described above); for salaries, wages, and other public television employee benefits; for construction performed or expenditures made prior to the application deadline; or for facilities funded under other grants.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

The applicant must be a public television station that serves a rural area regardless of whether they also serve an urban area.

(Rural area means any area of the United States not included within the boundaries of any incorporated or unincorporated city, village, or borough having a population in excess of 20,000 inhabitants.) The applicant must also be required to convert from analog to digital transmission under the rules of the FCC.

For the purpose of this grant program, a public television station must be an organization which (1) qualifies for Federal funding under Section 396(k) of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, and (2) which is either: (a) under the rules and regulations of the FCC in effect on November 2, 1978, eligible to be licensed as a noncommercial educational broadcast station and which is owned and operated by a public agency or nonprofit private foundation, corporation, or association; or (b) owned and operated by a municipality and which transmits only noncommercial programs for education purposes.

Beneficiary Eligibility

Anyone who receives the improved digital television signal from a rural public television station or attends an educational institution that uses public television in its curriculum.


The applicant must provide evidence demonstrating that it meets the definition of a public television station in section 81, above. The applicant must also provide evidence that the FCC has authorized the initiation of digital broadcasting at each of the Applicant's transmitter and translator sites.

Aplication and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination

None required.

This program is excluded from coverage under E.O.


Application Procedures

An applicant must submit an application in accordance with the Program's application guide. In addition to Government-wide requirements, the applicant shall provide a description of the project including: an executive summary, a project cost spreadsheet, broadcast coverage maps, a complete narrative description, and an environmental assessment.

Award Procedures

All complete applications from eligible applicants that meet the application deadline will be scored in a competitive process to determine which projects are funded. There are three scoring categories. The first is rurality, a measure of the rural character of the applicant's digital television coverage area. Up to 50 points can be earned in this category. The second uses the National School Lunch Program eligibility percentage as a measure of the economic need of the people in the applicant's coverage area. This category earns up to 25 points. Finally, up to 25 points can be awarded based on critical need.


RUS publishes application dates and deadlines annually in a Notice of Funding Availability in the Federal Register.


Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006; Title III, Rural Development Programs; Rural Utilities Service; Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program; Public Law 109-97.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

Applications are approved each fiscal year for which funding is made available.





Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements


Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

RUS will advance funds as needed (but no more frequently than once every 30 days) to reimburse disbursements for approved grant purposes. A recipient generally has three years to spend funds. RUS may approve a one year extension.

Post Assistance Requirements


The recipient must provide periodic performance reports and permit periodic inspection by RUS of the project.

The recipient must constantly monitor performance to ensure that it is meeting time schedules, accomplishing projected work by time periods, and achieving other performance objectives.

The recipient must provide periodic financial reports to RUS.

The performance and financial reports must be submitted to RUS on a quarterly basis throughout the project construction period.


The recipient must provide RUS with an audit for each year in which a portion of the grant is expended. In accordance with the provisions of OMB Circular No. A-133 (Revised, June 27, 2003), "Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non Profit Organizations, nonfederal entities that receive financial assistance of $500,000 or more in Federal awards will have a single or a program-specific audit conducted for that year. Nonfederal entities that expend less than $500,000 a year in Federal awards are exempt from Federal audit requirements for that year, except as noted in Circular No. A-133.


The recipient must maintain all records needed to identify the purposes for which, and the manner in which, grant and other funds were expended on the project. The recipient must maintain such records for three years after the project is completed. The recipient must provide reasonable access to these records to RUS.

Financial Information

Account Identification



(Grants) FY 07 $4,950,000; FY 08 $0; and FY 09 est not reported.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

The maximum grant for an individual public television station is $1 million. In fiscal year 2006, the average grant amount was $497,000. The 10 grants ranged from $110,525 to $1,000,000.

Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature

7 CFR Part 1740 - Public Television Station Digital Transition Grant Program (Interim final rule with request for comments)

Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office


Headquarters Office

Assistant Administrator, Telecommunications Program, Rural Utilities Service, Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., STOP 1590, Room 5151, Washington, DC 20250-1590. Telephone: (202) 720 9554, Fax: (202) 720 0810.

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

Complete, eligible applications that meet the application deadline are scored to determine which projects are funded. There are three scoring categories: rurality, up to 50 points; economic need, up to 25 points; and critical need, up to 25 points.

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