Broadcasters tell the FCC that in light of the devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, "there is good cause to accelerate transition of the stations to post-auction channel assignments in order to avoid wasteful duplicative construction and to enable stations to utilize approved TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund reimbursements to subsidize restoration of broadcast television service to the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”
PR, VI Stations Seek Repack Speed-Up
A coalition of TV stations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are asking the FCC to accelerate transition of full-power and Class A stations to post-auction channel assignments.
“In light of the devastation to the islands brought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, there is good cause,” the stations say. They want to “avoid wasteful duplicative construction and enable stations to utilize approved TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund reimbursements to subsidize restoration of broadcast television service to the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The stations comprise 16 of the 21 reassigned stations located in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each of them, the letter says, experienced hurricane damage, from transmitters and studio equipment flooded by rain after roofs were blown off to 600-foot towers “toppled like toothpicks.”
Regardless of any particular station’s damage, all of the stations, the letter says, “continue to suffer from the lack of access to a reliable power grid and, of those operating, are operating at reduced power and/or reduced operational hours because of reliance on generators — a situation that is likely to continue for several months. Thus, the conditions are ripe for an early transition while stations are much more flexible, accustomed to or planning on alternate operations and employing regular local coordination among engineers regarding interference and resources.”
The letter continues: “If the pre-hurricane economic and infrastructure conditions, particularly in Puerto Rico, were poor, now the conditions are dire. There are simply not enough resources for broadcasters to contemplate building duplicate broadcast facilities over the course of the next 20-30 months.
“The likelihood of reimbursement funding falling far short of the maximum of 80% of costs for transitioning of commercial stations and 90% for non-commercial stations is yet one more burden on an already struggling industry.
“As [FCC] Chairman Pai noted after his recent trip to Puerto Rico, because there are no dedicated funds available to the FCC to assist broadcasters in the wake of disasters, the commission will need to “get creative” in its efforts to assist the recovery. Devising an early transition plan for the stations is precisely the sort of creative solution the situation demands.”