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Post-Auction: 39 Months or Bust

WASHINGTON—There’s no avoiding a deadline. TV stations displaced by the spectrum incentive auction will have 39 months from channel-assignment public notification to shut down transmissions on pre-auction frequencies. This, according to the Public Notice on Procedures for the Post-Incentive Auction Broadcast Transition, released today by the Federal Communications Commission. (Click on the image at right to bring the Notice up in a new window.)

Stations that simply cannot complete construction of new broadcast facilities within the 39-month timeframe may “may seek a single extension of up to 180 days,” to operate on a temporary facility the PN said. However, it added, “Grant of an extension of time to construct a station’s post-auction channel facility will not extend the time during which the licensee may operate on its pre-auction channel.”

The broadcast lobby has pushed back on the 39-month hard deadline, most recently in a filing aimed at the FCC’s proposal on TV channel repack reporting:
“No station should be required to cease operation on its pre-auction channel until construction on its primary facilities is complete,” an engineering team for the National Association of Broadcasters wrote.

Stations may apply for the 180-day extension through Special Temporary Authority under the commission’s “tolling rule.”

“The tolling rule provides that a construction permit deadline may be tolled only for specific circumstances not under the licensee’s control, such as acts of God or delays due to administrative or judicial review,” the PN states.

All such STAs will be granted for a maximum of 180 days, and subject to modification or cancellation by the Media Bureau “without prior notice, at its sole discretion.”

The 39-month window will open when the commission releases its auction closing and TV station reassignment public notice noting all new channel assignments. Before the notice, and possibly before the currently final stage of the forward auction ends, displaced broadcasters will receive confidential letters notifying them of their new channel assignments. The notice that will trigger the 39-month deadline will come after an “assignment phase” in which forward auction winners bid for specific frequency blocks. This assignment phase is likely to take “several weeks,” the commission said this week. (See “FCC Clarifies Assignment Phase,” Jan. 26, 2017)

The commission also released its “Post-Incentive Auction Transition Scheduling Plan” today. TV Technology provided a summary of the proposals therein presented last September in “FCC Repack Plan: Key Points.” (Click on the document image below to bring the Notice up in a new window.)

For more TV Technology coverage, see our spectrum auction silo.

Also see...
Jan 27.2017
NAB Asks for Repack Reporting Tweaks
Yes or no does not always the question answer, the National Association of Broadcasters told the folks at the Federal Communications Commission regarding a proposed form for periodic channel-repacking reports.

Jan. 10, 2017
FCC Seeks Feedback on Repack Reporting Process
Stations eligible for reimbursement comprise all full-power and some Class A stations involuntarily assigned to a new channel. The PN said a “small number of Class A stations are not protected during the repacking process, and if displaced as a result of repacking will not be eligible for reimbursement.”