FCC Cites National Broadband Plan in Station Move Denial

Earlier this week the FCC released a letter denying an Entravision Application for Review that was filed in 2002, seeking to change the community of license for WJAL television from Hagerstown, Md. to Silver Spring, Md. Entravision had proposed moving its then-paired DTV Channel 16 to Silver Spring, but ultimately selected Channel 39 as its final DTV allocation. In 2006 Entravision notified the FCC of the change, eliminating any continued interest in the reallotment of Channel 16 to Silver Spring.

Although the petition to move Channel 16 to Silver Spring and subsequent legal challenges are essentially moot, the FCC letter officially denying the Application for Review added this comment, "even if we were inclined to overlook the procedural irregularities of Entravision's new proposal and waive the freeze on the filing of petitions for rulemaking by television stations to change their community of license, the Commission's priorities no longer support such an action."

The communication added that "pursuant to the recommendations made in the National Broadband Plan, the Commission has initiated a rulemaking proceeding to consider voluntary incentive auctions, which could result in the reallocation of up to 120 MHz from the television broadcast band for mobile broadband use, as well as methodologies for repacking full-power television channels to increase efficiency."

It noted that allowing Entravision to relocate a DTV station into a Top-10 market would not be in line with policy goals.

The FCC could have simply denied the Application for Review. Instead, it was used to highlight the shift in priorities. The law that enabled the FCC to conduct an auction of broadcast TV spectrum only requires the Commission to use "all reasonable efforts" to protect the coverage of TV stations as of the date the law was signed. Even if the FCC were to grant a broadcaster expanded coverage, under the new law the FCC has no obligation to protect that expanded coverage in a repacking.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.