Repacking broadcast television stations represents a crucial component of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction. Repacking may also affect other broadcasters, even if they are not repacked. FM radio and television stations located on or near towers with repacked television stations may be affected by the repack, as workers will need to access towers to perform significant work needed to move repacked stations to new channels.
On April 13, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Closing and Reassignment Public Notice that lists the new channel, operating parameters, assigned transition phase and phase completion date for every repacked station. Repacked television stations have 90 days from the release date to file a construction permit (CP) application for facilities to operate on its post-auction channels, as well as a cost estimate for completing this work.
CP applications must propose facilities or modified facilities consistent with the technical parameters set forth in the Closing and Reassignment Public Notice. These applications will be considered minor change applications under the FCC's rules, and will be exempt from filing fees.
Stations may seek a waiver of the CP filing deadline if they are unable to construct facilities consistent with the FCC-specified technical parameters. Waiver requests must be filed as a request for Special Temporary Authority (STA) via the FCC's Licensing and Management System (LMS), with a copy sent to the FCC at IATransitionlicensing@fcc.gov . Importantly, grant of a waiver of the 90-day CP filing deadline does not alter a station's construction deadline.
After the 90-day CP filing deadline, the Media Bureau will issue two Public Notices establishing 30-day consecutive filing windows for stations seeking alternative channels and/or expanded facilities from those in the Closing and Reassignment Public Notice.
Each repacked station will be assigned to one of 10 transition phases and phase completion dates. The phase completion date will be listed on the CP as its construction deadline and is the last day that the station may operate on its pre-auction channel absent the grant of STA. STA will be granted only in "very limited circumstances" and will not extend beyond the end of the transition period. After 39 months, no station will be permitted to operate on its pre-auction channel.
Stations unable to complete construction of their post-auction facilities by their deadline may seek a single extension of up to 180 days. Extension requests must be filed 90 days before the station's phase completion date. The request must include a showing of reasons that the reasons for delay were either unforeseen or beyond the station's control. Additional time to construct beyond the 180-day extension may only be requested under the FCC's "tolling rule."
All extension applications will be evaluated to determine whether grant will delay or disrupt the post-auction transition schedule. A grant of extension of time to construct will not extend the time during which the licensee may operate on its pre-auction channel, regardless of whether work on its post-auction channel facilities is complete.
The FCC has provided that, to "minimize the time a station is off-the-air," stations may request STA to operate with temporary facilities while they complete construction. Requests for STA must be filed electronically and filing fees apply. All STAs will be limited to a maximum of 180 days and subject to modification or cancellation without notice at any time. STAs must not cause interference to other broadcast and wireless licensees and no STA will be granted to operate on a pre-auction channel beyond the 39-month transition period.
Stations in the border regions must abide by the technical parameters specified arrangements between the FCC and Canada and Mexico, as applicable. Applications in accordance with these parameters may not require additional coordination. However, applications for alternative channels or expanded facilities will require coordination. Stations involuntarily reassigned to a new channel are eligible for reimbursement of "reasonably incurred" costs. Stations must identify their current operational equipment as well as the equipment and services they expect to purchase to complete their post-auction transition. The FCC has prepared a catalog of eligible expenses to assist broadcasters in compiling cost estimates. Repacked stations may base their cost estimates on the catalog of eligible expenses or on vendor price quotes. Use of the catalog is optional; however, for costs not described in the catalog or that exceed the ranges in the catalog, stations should submit supporting documentation such as vendor price quotes.
The FCC will release a future Public Notice providing additional detail on the reimbursement process. All stations anticipating receiving reimbursement payments should setup an account in the FCC's updated Commission Registration System (CORES) with a username and password. Requests for reimbursement will not be processed until after the Media Bureau makes an initial allocation for stations that have timely filed reimbursement cost estimates during the 90-day CP filing period.
As stations get closer to the cutover to their new channels, they must take additional actions. Within 10 days after commencement of program test authority, a licensee must submit an application for license on its post-auction channel via LMS using FCC Form 2100 Schedule B (full power) or Schedule F (Class A) and pay the requisite filing fee. Further, stations are required to comply with certain consumer education requirements prior to the transition. In particular, stations are required to air either 60 seconds of on-air consumer education or 60 seconds of crawls per day for 30 days prior to ceasing operation on their pre-auction channel. Stations must also provide written notice to multichannel video programming distributors that currently carry the station.