TV Channels 6 (82-88 MHz) and 5 (76-82 MHz) for audio broadcasting
A brief history
When the FCC approved digital television, they granted all full power TV stations a "transition" channel. This was a second channel that all stations can use to construct their digital facilities. At the end of the digital transition, TV stations will be required to relinquish one of these two channels. In a separate proceedng, Congress had reallocated TV Channels 52-69 to commercial and public safety wireless interests. The remaining channels 2-51 are now referred to as the "core" channels. At the end of the transition, all TV stations will need to operate on Channels 2 through 51.
The FCC is currently asking all full power television stations to state which channel they would like to keep after the transition. This Channel Election process is being done in several rounds:
Round 1 is limited to TV stations that have their primary channel and/or their transition channel within the core (2-51) channels. Stations eligible for round 1 may defer to round 2 (stations that would want to do this are those who have an undesirable NTSC channel (such as 2-6) and a DTV transition channel outside the core.
Round 2 is for those stations that have both of their channels outside the core. Stations that did not make a channel choice in Round 1 can also elect in this round.
Round 3 is a last chance for any station that did not elect in the previous two rounds to make their choice.
Why Channel 6 is better for audio broadacsting
The main reason is desirability for the channel to be used for DTV. In many markets, since there were so many VHF stations on the dial, the only place where transition channels could be placed is in the UHF spectrum. Since these stations have already made a big investment in their DTV facilities on UHF, it would not make a lot of sense to completely remove their DTV facilities on UHF and build new DTV facilities on VHF. Also, due to the propagation characteritics of the low band VHF TV channels (2-6), DTV is not desirable on these channels due to it's lack of tolerance to noise, etc. Also, if one broadcaster decides to move their DTV facilities to VHF while all of the competing stations in the market are on UHF, it puts the VHF DTV station at a competitive disadvantage. DTV channel 6 stations would be required to protect non-commercial educational FM stations operating on 88-92 MHz (because of this requirement, the FCC did not allocate DTV Channel 6 to many communities) The most important reason is that the 30 FM channels that could be created out of the Channel 6 spectrum could hold a potential of thousands of new non-commercial community broadcast stations versus a small number of full power and low power TV stations.
Why support a band that no one makes radios for?
While it is true that the availability of an FM receiver that picks up 82.1 through 87.9 is scarce right now within the borders of the United States, it is possible that in the future the consumer electronics industry, either voluntarily or through legislation makes FM tuners for 82-88 MHz available in the United States. In Japan, the FM broadcast band spans from 76-92 MHz (Channels 5 & 6 in the USA), therefore the technology to make a radio that tunes down to 82 MHz is already available.
There is a movement to create an "expanded band" (EXB) in the Channel 5 and 6 (76-88 MHz) spectrum that would create 117 100 kHz wide digital channels which be used mainly for AM transition. See this Radio World article for more information on the service proposal.
REC opposes the proposal as it will introduce a second broadcast band standard and would give preference to existing incumbent broadcasters instead of the introduction of new voices to the airwaves. If the FCC permits such a transition then we feel that it is necessary to demand that the AM broadcast spectrum be made available to licensed and unlicensed low power broadcast applications.