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TV Repack Given Cushion Amid Coronavirus by FCC

(Image credit: Future)

WASHINGTON—The TV repack that is currently underway with stations relocating on the TV spectrum is being given some slack by the FCC in the event interruptions occur due to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Heading into Phase 9, the FCC has provided details on how and when such adjustments can be made.

Phase 8 of the repack saw its deadline pass on March 13. The FCC said that stations assigned to Phase 8 did meet their deadline, and that any extensions needed because of delivery delay were granted. However, the FCC says it has become aware of a two-week delay of field service being imposed for one tower company because of COVID-19.

As Phase 9 officially got underway on March 14, and because the FCC does anticipate that additional suspensions may occur that can impact the transition, stations assigned to Phase 9 that believe it may not be able to meet the May 1 deadline to complete their transition will be granted a waiver and reassigned to Phase 10. Phase 10 begins on May 2 and has a deadline of July 3.

A request for a waiver should be based on the station’s need to delay specifically because of circumstances related to COVID-19. It needs to be filed as a legal request for special temporary authority in the Licensing Management System, with a copy sent via email to Evan.Morris@fcc.gov and kevin.harding@fcc.gov

Stations that are able to complete their transition within the Phase 9 timeframe are permitted to do so, so long as they do not have direct downstream linkages to stations moving from Phase 9 to Phase 10.

No other testing period start dates or phase completion dates are being adjusted at this time, per the FCC.

The full statement from the FCC is available online.

NAB’s Executive Vice President of Communication Dennis Wharton supported the FCC’s decision in an official statement.

“NAB strongly supports the FCC’s additional flexibility with respect to Phase 9 of the TV repack given the uncertainty over tower equipment delivery delays related to the worldwide coronavirus crisis,” said Wharton. “In this time of uncertainty, it’s vital that local TV viewers maintain access to credible broadcast news sources. We look forward to the speedy end to the viral pandemic, and a resumption of work by tower crews to successfully complete the repack and ensure access to our tens of millions of viewers.”