First in a two-part series.
By Brian Galante
Special to RBR+TVBR
The broadcast industry breathed a collective sigh of relief when the FCC announced on July 13 that the post-incentive auction transition, more commonly known as the repack, was successfully completed. The 39-month initiative effectively cleared the 600 MHz spectrum for wireless services, reallocating 987 full-power and Class A TV stations to new UHF or VHF channels.
The 39-month window was always viewed as a tight timeline, given the number of stations that would be moved to new channel assignments over 11 distinct phases. Along with a shortage of qualified tower crews, challenges included aggressive production deadlines for manufacturers, seasonal/regional weather conditions, and a series of very short, dense repack phases — specifically, phases four to six.
COVID-19 was the challenge that no one saw coming. The aftershocks of the virus quickly rippled through the broadcast industry as Phase 9 installations were to begin.
Just as the industry saw the light at the end of the tunnel, many installations were put on ice. WPSD-DT, an NBC affiliate serving the Paducah, Ky., market as “LOCAL 6,” was one of many stations affected.