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Just How Will the TV Repack Impact Public Radio Stations?

New report features technical details

The Public Radio Satellite System is offering public radio stations new details and a technical report on the ways in which the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadcast Spectrum Auction may impact radio tower sites and projects.

In a Feb. 14 blog post, the organization offered an update for public radio stations, saying that the TV spectrum repack process may impact a public radio station in myriad ways — even if a licensee didn’t outright participate in the spectrum repack process.

As Radio World has previously reported, the so-called mandatory repack of spectrum may impact towers used by television stations that were involved in the auction. Some of these towers may also be used by radio stations.

According to PRSS, there are a variety of temporary or permanent challenges a radio station may encounter if their antenna shares space with a TV tower that participated in the auction.

“In the spirit of no surprises, it is important for every station to understand whether its antenna may be affected,” the PRSS said in its blog post.

A report released by the law firm Meintel, Sgrignoli & Wallace studied the potential impacts on public radio station transmitter sites. The report, “Potential Impacts To Public Radio Transmission Facilities From TV Band Repacking,” was released to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It determined that 152 public radio stations are within 250 meters of a full-power or Class A television station that may be repacked. Of those, 95 radio stations are on the same tower as a Class A television station.

Of those 95 stations, 34 are collocated on a tower with a station that currently operates on Channels 38–51, which are the channels that will be reallocated for mobile broadband and unlicensed wireless services (otherwise known as the FCC Clearing Spectrum). These stations will most certainly be impacted when these stations will either be repacked or head off-air as a winner in the FCC Incentive Auction, according to the report.

The report highlights the possible effects of the repack on radio licensees, including the need to schedule downtime as technicians perform maintenance on towers; transmission line changes as DTV stations need to be relocated to accommodate new loads; the removal of old antennas; the addition of auxiliary or temporary antennas; or the outright loss of tower space altogether.

PRSS suggests stations anticipate other challenges too, such as a potential scarcity of technicians available to work on an antenna during the repack period. In a companion FAQ, the firm offered specifics about both direct and indirect impacts on public radio stations.

A detailed list of stations expected to be impacted by the repack can be found starting on Page 8 of the report.

The report also reminds stations of another important issue: FCC has made it clear that there will be no reimbursement of costs for radio station changes, unless there is a written contractual obligation for the TV station to pay for radio station modifications. Licensees should not expect FCC relocation funds to be available to radio stations.

“Consequently, radio stations should prepare for the expenses that are likely to be incurred by them and not reimbursable from the FCC,” the report said. “Budgeting for these scenarios would be prudent, given that the FCC schedule is very aggressive and will not likely be sympathetic to TV or radio stations that cause delays in their repacking schedule.”

PRSS suggests engineering staff look closely at the report and reach out to PRSS with questions or concerns at (800) 971-7677 or send an email to [email protected].