We already knew that the ambitious TV spectrum “repack” process over the next three years was likely to have operational implications for FM broadcasters in the United States. Now an NAB-commissioned study seeks to quantify the scope of the impact on radio.
The study, conducted by V-Soft Communications, finds that more than 600 FM stations could be affected by the repack, a process in which over 1,100 TV stations will change channels or, in some cases, go off the air. Many of the TV stations will require antenna replacements or other tower work that could take days, or weeks.
The possible impact on radio is broken down in the accompanying table, and NAB has filed a list of affected FM stations in comments to the FCC.
Robert Weller, NAB’s vice president for spectrum policy, tells Radio World that the potential impact on FMs is chiefly from RF exposure concerns. If an FM and a TV station share a common tower or are on nearby towers, workers for the TV station could face RF hazards unless the FM reduces or turns off power. “While many FM stations have auxiliary antennas that can help reduce downtime, many do not; and the expenses of constructing an auxiliary facility and revenue loss are generally not considered reimbursable by the Incentive Auction Broadcast Relocation Fund,” Weller said, referring to money set aside by Congress to help the TV industry through the process.
Weller said that 452 TV stations planning to change channels could affect the operation of 629 nearby FMs. Further, more than 100 of those FMs are affected by three or more TV stations; some are affected by as many as six. Further, some of those are in different phases of their repack, and Weller said this could mean “multiple and lengthy” requests for FM stations to lower power or even cease operations.
States with the most radio stations possibly affected are Florida (137), New York (117) and California (109). Forty-six states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have at least one affected radio station.
V-Soft used information from the FCC’s station database; it listed FM stations likely to be affected by TV antenna modifications by full-service and Class A TV facilities required as a result of the spectrum auction repack; it also listed FM stations that, based on V-Soft’s calculations, are in a common aperture with the TV station antenna on the same tower, and identifies whether potentially affected FMs could use auxiliary facilities while work is being performed on the TV facility.
Weller said that affected NAB member stations have already been provided a copy of the report.