Public Television Station Digital Transition Grant Program

As part of the nation's transition to digital television, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required all television broadcasters to convert their transmitters to broadcast digital signals by June 12, 2009. The goal of this conversion was a television system that makes more efficient use of the radio spectrum. Decreasing the use of spectrum by television channels freed up spectrum to enable the introduction of new wireless telecommunications services such as mobile wireless Internet access. In order to allocate spectrum to new uses, stations had to transition their main transmitter to the new broadcast system and digital no later than June 2009. While stations must broadcast their main transmitter signal in digital, many rural stations have yet to complete a full digital transition of their stations across all equipment. Rural stations often have translators serving small or isolated areas. The 2009 FCC deadline did not apply to translators; in 2011 the FCC adopted a final deadline for analog-to-digital conversion of all translators by September 1, 2015. Because of this, translators have been allowed to continue broadcasting in analog, and stations are still in the process of converting some of their translators to digital. Some rural stations also have not fully converted their production and studio equipment to digital, which has impaired their ability to provide the same quality local programming that they provided in analog. The digital transition has also created some service gaps where households that received an analog signal are now unable to receive a digital signal. For rural households the digital transition has meant in some cases diminished over-the-air public television service. These rural households are the focus of the Agency’s Public Television Station Digital Transition Grant Program.

Last Known Status
Program Number
Federal Agency
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Office: Rural Utilities Service
Types of Assistance
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 (unless they are for construction or installation of eligible facilities); for construction performed or expenditures made prior to the application deadline; or for facilities funded under other grants. 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.
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.
Eligibility Requirements
Applicant Eligibility
The applicant must be a public television station that serves a rural area regardless of whether it also serves 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 listed 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. This program is excluded from coverage under OMB Circular No. A-87.
Application and Award Process
Preapplication Coordination
Preapplication coordination is not applicable. Environmental impact information is not required for this program. This program is excluded from coverage under E.O. 12372.
Application Procedure
OMB Circular No. A-102 applies to this program. OMB Circular No. A-110 applies to this program. 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 Procedure
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.
Contact the headquarters or regional office, as appropriate, for application deadlines.
Range of Approval/Disapproval Time
Applications are approved each fiscal year for which funding is made available.
Not Applicable.
Not Applicable.
Assistance Considerations
Formula and Matching Requirements
Statutory formulas are not applicable to this program.
Matching requirements are not applicable to this program.
MOE requirements are not applicable to this program.
Length and Time Phasing of Assistance
A recipient generally has three years to spend funds. See the following for information on how assistance is awarded/released: RUS will advance funds as needed (but no more frequently than once every 30 days) to reimburse disbursements for approved grant purposes.
Post Assistance Requirements
Program reports are not applicable. Cash reports are not applicable. Progress reports are not applicable. The recipient must submit SF-425, Federal Financial Report to RUS throughout the construction period. The recipient must also provide semi-annual performance reports. The recipient must monitor performance to ensure that it is meeting time schedules, accomplishing projected work by time periods, and achieving other performance objectives.
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 expend 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 Grantee shall provide RUS with an audit for each year in which a portion of the Grant is expended, at the earlier of (i) 30 days after the receipt of the audit or (ii) 9 months after the end of the audit period, in accordance with 7 C.F.R. 3052, Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non-Profit Organizations
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 3 years after the project is completed. The recipient must provide reasonable access to these records to RUS.
Program Accomplishments
Fiscal Year 2013: No Current Data Available Fiscal Year 2014: N/A. Fiscal Year 2015: No Current Data Available
Financial Information
Account Identification
(Project Grants) FY 12 $3,263,883; FY 13 est $2,775,000; and FY 14 est $3,000,000
Range and Average of Financial Assistance
The maximum grant for an individual public television station is $750,000. In fiscal year 2012, the average grant amount was $26,388. The 10 grants ranged from $4,000 to $750,000.
Regulations, Guidelines and Literature
7 CFR Part 1740 - Public Television Station Digital Transition Grant Program
Information Contacts
Regional or Local Office
Headquarters Office
Assistant Administrator, Telecommunications Program, Rural Utilities Service, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., STOP 1590, Washington, District of Columbia 20250 Phone: (202) 720-9564.
Website Address
Examples of Funded Projects
Fiscal Year 2013: No Current Data Available Fiscal Year 2014: N/A. Fiscal Year 2015: No Current Data Available
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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