Public television station WNVT, which broadcasts on Channel 53, has applied to switch permanently its broadcasting frequency to Channel 14 on the UHF dial - a move that would give northern Virginia viewers a clearer reception of programs.

Northern Virginias get fuzzy reception on 53 because the channel's transmitter is located in Prince William County, explained Bruce Miller, WNVT's director of news and public affairs.

"It comes in the back of most northern Virginia antennae, which are facing north toward Washington," he said.

The transmitter for Channel 14 is located in Arlington at the intersection of Lee Highway and George Mason Drive.

With the permission of the Federal Communications Commission, WNVT is currently using Channel 14 as a "translator" and has done so for the past year. Under "translator" status, the channel 14 transmitter can be used at comparatively low power, only 1000 watts, to beam the channel 53 signal to viewers inside the beltway.

According to Miller, this gives viewers in Arlington and Alexandria somewhat better WNVT reception if they turn their dials to 14.

If WNVT is given permission to use Channel 14 on a permanent basis, the channel could use as much as 5 megawatts, or 5 million watts, a signal strong enough to reach all northern Virginia households, said Miller. According to Miller, channel 53 would then be reassigned to Fredericksburg.

WNVT's request was filed on Dec. 10 with the FCC. Action should be taken on the matter within seven to eight months, according to Gordon Godfrey, of the FCC Policy and Rulemaking Division.

"Ordinarily action on the matter would take place within five months, but our work backlog is so great, it will take longer," said Godfrey.

Under commission procedures, the proposal for frequency change must be advertised, and comments both in support and in opposition to the proposal must be filed before any action is taken.

WNVT broadcasts a half hour Northern Virginia news program nightly and covers local affairs.

"For that reason its in the interest of Northern Virginians that they be able to get our programs without a great deal of trouble," said Miller.