NAB TO FCC: Reconsider TV Repack Deadline


The Tom Wheeler-led FCC is once again under fire.

This time, the NAB is the latest entity to express its concerns regarding a major Commission endeavor.

The radio and television industry’s chief lobbying group on Friday (Oct. 28) filed a 25-page response to the Commission’s proposed plan for developing a schedule to repack television stations after the close of the ongoing incentive auction, which today resumes with the start of Stage 3 of the Reverse Auction.

In its comments, the NAB again emphasized that the Commission must modify its 39-month repack deadline.

“Unfortunately, while there is much promise in the proposed scheduling plan, the Commission’s continued insistence that the transition can be completed in 39 months has painted the Commission into a succession of unnecessary corners that ultimately threaten the transition’s viability,” NAB argues. “The 39-month deadline has compelled the Commission to establish a three-month period for stations to submit construction permit applications and cost estimates. This will lead to rushed, potentially incomplete applications that will inevitably need to be amended. The 39-month deadline has also led to the development of a scheduling plan that will involve assigning stations to construction phases before the Commission or the stations themselves even know the scope of work involved with their transition.”

This will create inefficiencies and conflicts at the outset, the NAB believes, adding that the need to develop a scheduling plan “that gives the appearance of achievability within the Commission’s artificial 39-month deadline has forced the Commission to make unrealistic modeling assumptions that will likely be invalidated in practice.”

Among the NAB’s suggestions of remedies are adopting a process for reassigning stations to different phases, and developing a systematic approach for adjusting the scheduling plan based on “facts on the ground.”

“While NAB does not object to the Commission’s proposal to assign stations to up to ten different transition phases as a first approximation, in practice, this schedule is unlikely to avoid substantial modification,” NAB writes. “With over 1,100 stations assigned to new channels, each phase will, on average, have approximately 110 stations. These stations will all need to move by the same completion date, and will only be allowed to conduct testing during a designated testing period that may be as short as four weeks. Assuming that 110 stations will all be prepared to begin operation on their new channels within this tight pre-determined window is unreasonably optimistic. Accordingly, the FCC should treat its initial phase assignments and phase deadlines as tentative, and subject to adjustment as the transition unfolds.”

Furthermore, the NAB seeks a waiver on the prohibition of communication for reverse auction participants once the incentive auction’s final stage rule is satisfied.

To view the NAB’s letter in its entirety, please click here.