WASHINGTON�The current plan to offer 39-months to repack up to as many 1,200 stations after the next year�s TV spectrum incentive auction may not be enough time, according to the National Association of Broadcasters. After commissioning a study from Digital Tech Consulting, it was concluded that �under ideal conditions, as many as 445 stations can be relocated to new channels within 39 months.�
As a result, the NAB has filed an ex parte communication to FCC officials on Monday.
�Commission officials have noted on many occasions� that the commission will not know how many broadcasters will be required to relocate until the auction is complete,� read the file. �In light of this fact, the commission�s one-size-fits-all deadline is manifestly unreasonable; clearly, the deadline for repacking 200 stations should not be the same as the deadline for repacking 1,200.�
In the May, 2014 Incentive Auction Framework Order, the FCC determined that if stations did not meet the deadline of 39 months�whether it was outside their control or not�the offending station would be forced off the air. There was also no formal waiver process established to address this problem. The 39-month deadline was based on the Spectrum Act, which permits the commission to reimburse broadcasters for costs associated with the repacking for up to 36 months following the auction.
In the file, the NAB recommends that the current deadline be eliminated and the FCC work with shareholders on a regional transition plan for a more efficient repack after the conclusion of the auction. Once it is known how many stations must be repacked, then the FCC can set a deadline. They also recommend a waiver process for stations who can�t met the deadline through uncontrolled circumstances.