TV Groups Seek To Avoid Post-Auction Issues

California Oregon Broadcasting, CNZ Communications, Gray Television, Local Media Holdings, Media General, Nexstar Broadcasting Group and Venture Technologies Group identify a number of problems with the FCC's post-auction channel reassignment process and offer proposed solutions, including dropping the FCC’s confidentiality rules so stations can work together.

 

A number of broadcast groups have asked the FCC to modify its proposals for the post-spectrum channel reassignments and repack. The plan, they say “provides a solid framework for addressing the challenges that the transition presents. Unfortunately, the plan as proposed does not go far enough either to provide broadcasters with the necessary head start on their planning or to account for the realities of the transition process. “

In a joint filing to the FCC, California Oregon Broadcasting, CNZ Communications, Gray Television, Local Media Holdings, Media General, Nexstar Broadcasting Group and Venture Technologies Group identify a number of problems with the plan and suggests steps the commission should take to “maximize the likelihood of a successful transition.”

First, it says, is “to allow broadcasters to prepare for the transition, the FCC must terminate the confidentiality rules for broadcasters as soon as the final stage rule is met. A channel change is no simple endeavor. It is a highly complex, time-consuming process that requires the input of many individuals working on different aspects of a common goal. Broadcasters must be able to freely communicate with their consulting engineers, equipment vendors, attorneys, and other broadcasters as early as possible to facilitate the transition process.”

In addition, it said the Commission must also consider that in several large markets, different broadcasters share transmission facilities and equipment through a tower company. “If stations are prohibited from sharing channel assignments, the significant coordination, planning and engineering work necessary to ensure that all participating stations are accommodated cannot begin.”

Second, it says the commission should publicly release the preliminary channel reassignments or take other actions to facilitate coordination among broadcasters. “Stations’ transitions to their post-auction channels will not occur in a vacuum. [T]he transition will involve many moving parts, all with the potential to collide and derail the Commission’s transition schedule plan. Ideally, therefore, broadcasters would know the phase and channel assignments of all other stations so they could determine which stations will affect their own ability to transition (without regard for their phase).”

Third, the commission should account for additional factors in its phase assignment and scheduling tools, the groups say. Among them are regional weather (e.g., freezing temperatures, ice, snow and high winds) that make certain tower sites inaccessible for months on end; local zoning restrictions that “necessarily will delay tower access in some areas.”

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Fourth, the groups say, the commission must not allow more than 0.5% interference from any station. This differs from the FCC’s plan to temporarily allow increased pairwise interference of up to 2%. “Should the commission, nevertheless, adopt its proposal to allow up to 2% interference from each station, it must adopt an aggregate cap for the amount of interference any station is forced to accept. Allowing up to 2% interference from each interfering station with no aggregate cap could result in ‘death by a thousand cuts,’ disrupting over-the-air broadcast service for months or years on end.”

Fifth, the commission should not force any station off the air that has made a good faith effort to comply with its phase completion deadline. The filing says: “Transitioning approximately 1,400 stations to new channels is necessarily complex and requires the entire broadcast ecosystem to work in tandem. It is not only possible, but likely, that some stations — despite their good faith efforts to complete their new facilities by the phase completion deadline — will be unable to do so. The reasons for missing the deadline will likely derive from circumstances beyond the station’s control, including delays related to weather, equipment availability, and tower crew scheduling. The FCC must not penalize stations that are unable to complete their facilities by the phase completion deadline through no fault of their own.”


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