The FCC has just imposed a freeze on the filing of displacement applications for LPTV and TV translator stations, as well as displacement applications for Class A TV stations. A displacement application is one that is filed to preserve a secondary station’s operations when a full-power station makes changes in its technical facilities that would disrupt the operation of the secondary station. The Commission reasoned that Class A stations (which for the most part are primary stations) could only be displaced during the digital transition by full-power stations that could not otherwise be accommodated. As the digital transition for full-power stations is long over, few if any Class A stations should be affected by this order. LPTV stations and TV translators, are secondary to full-power stations and can be displaced by changes in full-power stations. But as changes in full-power stations have been frozen by an FCC freeze order issued in 2013 in anticipation of the repacking of the television spectrum as part of the television incentive auction process (see our summary of that 2013 freeze here), there should be few changes in TV stations that will trigger the need for a displacement channel until after the TV stations are repacked, following the incentive auction. Presumably, after the full power stations are repacked, the LPTV and TV translator freeze will be lifted, allowing these stations to attempt to fit in whatever is left of the television band after the auctions.
The FCC, in its incentive auction order (at paragraph 212 of this is a 400 page order, note that it will take time to download if you have a slow Internet connection), did lift the freeze on processing applications for changes in full-power TV stations, if only slightly. The FCC has agreed to begin to process applications that were already pending as of the TV freeze date of April 5, 2013. However, the grant and subsequent construction of any facilities authorized by the grant of such applications will be at the applicant’s peril, as these modifications will not be protected from interference caused by the TV repacking after the incentive auction. So, theoretically, a station could construct new facilities following the grant of one of these applications, only to have to stop using the new facilities if they create interference to a repacked station after the incentive auction.
The FCC has promised, in both the case of full-power and low power TV stations, to look at waiver requests to process other applications where the public interest justifies such processing. But, in the recent past, the FCC has been very limited in granting waivers of the freeze (the public notice indicating that the existing full-power freeze has been waived only twice). If that is precedent, don’t look for many other waivers of these freeze orders until after the TV incentive auctions are complete.