LPTV protection in incentive auction

The FCC last week released a Public Notice describing the process for the filing of applications for replacement channels for LPTV stations and TV translators that are displaced by the incentive auction.  As the repacking of the TV band following the incentive auction will require LPTV and TV translator stations now operating on channels above 37 to move to a new channel below that channel, and as others will be displaced by full-power stations being moved from high channels to channels below 37 (or simply being rearranged on their channels to make room for some of the stations being repacked into the smaller TV band), this displacement window will be necessary for these LPTV/TV translator stations to continue to operate. The Public Notice sets out that the FCC will open a displacement window after full-power stations that were repacked as a result of the incentive auction have had their own windows when they can request alternative channels or increased facilities, as set out in the FCC’s auction Closing Notice (see that notice here).  The FCC estimates that the LPTV/TV Translator window will likely be announced 7 or 8 months after last month’s Closing Notice in the auction – meaning that it is likely to be announced at the end of this year.  As the announcement of the window will give LPTV and translator stations 60 days to prepare applications, and the window itself will last 30 days, it looks like we are looking at displacement applications being due late in the first quarter of 2018.

In addition to displaced LPTV stations and displaced TV translators, full-power TV stations that lost coverage areas because of the repacking will be able to file in this displacement window for a new class of translators.  In fact, these new translators will receive a preference over displacement applications for LPTV stations and TV translators if both happen to file for the same channel.  The FCC will, however, provide mutually exclusive applicants filed during the window an opportunity to move to a different channel to resolve any conflict.
Continue Reading FCC Details Window for LPTV Stations and TV Translators Displaced by the Incentive Auction to Seek New Channels

The FCC yesterday released a Public Notice dealing with the upcoming March 29 commitment deadline for TV broadcasters who filed their applications back in January indicating a possible intent to participate in the incentive auction to surrender their TV channel so that the FCC can use it to repack the TV band to free spectrum to sell to wireless broadband users. In the Public Notice, the Commission made clear that station’s actual commitments to accept the FCC’s initial offers to give up their spectrum (either by abandoning their channel entirely by going out of business or sharing with a channel with another broadcaster, or by moving from a UHF to a VHF channel) will need to be filed between 10AM on March 28 and 6 PM (Eastern Time) on March 29. The January applications said that a broadcaster might be interested in giving up its current channel – filings made before the upcoming March 29 deadline make that commitment binding.

Yesterday’s notice announced that the FCC will be making available its “Initial Commitment Module” of the Incentive Auction software system at 10 AM on March 24 during a “preview period” for review by TV broadcasters. That is the piece of software on which the broadcaster makes its commitment to participate in the auction at the FCC’s initial offering price. Starting on Monday, February 29, the FCC will be making available an online tutorial to allow broadcasters to familiarize themselves with how the software will work. In addition, today the FCC announced that it will hold a workshop for broadcasters on March 11, starting at 10 AM Eastern Time, providing information on how to make these commitments.  These actions come while the FCC battles with some LPTV stations claiming that they should have been considered Class A TV stations and included in the auction – a legal battle that seems to be the last potential legal speedbump that could in any way derail the upcoming auction.
Continue Reading FCC Announces Previews for TV Broadcasters of Incentive Auction Initial Commitment Software; Denies Auction Stay Request from LPTV Applicant

The road to the incentive auction’s anticipated start in March continues to be paved. With broadcasters who are intending to participate in the auction needing to file their initial Form 177 applications expressing that intent by January 12 (see our article here), the FCC has published instructions for completing the FCC Form 177 applications, providing an almost line-by-line explanation of the requirements for filing of the forms. These forms are to be filed by every licensee who is thinking about possibly offering their station up for any sort of compensation in the auction, whether that compensation is a total buy-out of their spectrum, or whether it is merely compensation for moving from a UHF channel to a digitally-less-desirable VHF channel. The full instructions for the form are available here and, as we wrote here, you can find a view of the form itself here (with the actual form not to be available until the window for filing that form opens on December 8).

To further explain the process, the FCC will be conducting a webinar on the reverse auction process on December 8 at 1 PM Eastern Time. Information and an agenda for the webinar were released yesterday, and can be found here. The webinar looks to be focusing on the nuts and bolts of the completion of the Form 177, a general overview of the auction process, the specific information sought by the Form including the filing of any channel sharing agreements, and the options for offering your station for buyout or move to VHF in the auction. The Public Notice also provides links to register for the auction and the web page from which the stream will originate (and at which it will be archived).
Continue Reading No Holidays for the Incentive Auction – Instructions and a Webinar for Broadcasters Who Plan to Enter the Auction and Disputes Over Repacking and LPTV

Earlier this week, we wrote about the Court of Appeals decision denying appeals of the FCC’s 2014 order setting the framework for the incentive auction to reclaim spectrum used by TV stations and repurpose it for use by wireless companies to provide more high-speed wireless broadband opportunities. But, in addition to the appeals, there were also a number of petitions for reconsideration of the 2014 order. Those were also resolved in an FCC order released last month. Many of the issues considered concerned technical matters as to how the new wireless spectrum would be allocated and sold after it is acquired from the broadcasters. But the order also resolved a number of issues of specific importance to broadcasters, some of which could potentially result in another appeal of the 2014 order to the Court of Appeals.

Initially, in its reconsideration order, the FCC refused to reconsider the modifications to the OET-69 standard for determining interference between television stations as that issue was before the Court of Appeals in the appeal filed by Sinclair and the NAB – the appeal that was denied by the FCC the week before this order was released. The use of the TVStudy updates to the inputs to the OET-69 have again been in the news this week, as the FCC released new population counts for each auction-eligible station as computed by using this information, and asked for comment on this information by July 30. The population served by a TV station is a very important input into how much a station would receive to surrender its spectrum in the incentive auction (just how important that input will be is an issue to be addressed at the FCC meeting next week). The FCC request for comments is here, and the table showing the FCC’s prediction of the population served by each auction-eligible TV station is here. This updated information has already proved to be controversial, with one association representing probable auction participants suggesting that the recomputation of a NY TV station that will set the highest opening offer to buy out the spectrum of any TV station, and from which the offers to other lesser valued stations will be derived, could have the impact of lessening initial buyout offers to other broadcasters (see the blog post here).
Continue Reading TV Incentive Auction Moves Forward – The FCC Denies Reconsideration of Auction Framework, Asks for Comments on TVStudy Predictions of Station Coverage to be used in Determining Station Values