The NAB has filed comments with the FCC on the post-incentive auction transition, and it has made it clear that its forms to be used by repacked television stations to report progress on their new channels following the close of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction are lacking a few key things.
In its view, the NAB recommends, among other things, that the form be revised to remove any suggestion that broadcasters can or should be forced to operate on backup facilities that do not allow it to maintain coverage for an indefinite period of time.
In its comments, NAB states, “Repacking a thousand or more television stations following the successful close of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction will present unprecedented challenges. The sheer number of stations moving to new channels, complex interference dependencies and the need for specialized expertise will combine to make this transition the most complex the Commission has ever overseen.”
To protect viewers from potential service losses while successfully managing the transition in a manner that is “fair and transparent to all stakeholders,” NAB argues that the Commission maintain a clear understanding of the progress broadcasters are making in moving to new channels. “Without this information,” NAB says, “the Commission will be unable to make adjustments to its transition plan, such as re-assigning broadcasters to different transition phases or adjusting the deadlines for particular phases, to ensure that the transition proceeds as efficiently as possible with minimal disruption to viewers.”
NAB adds that progress reports “will provide greater transparency for winning forward auction bidders and will aid in coordinating the transition in specific markets.”
Accordingly, the FCC determined it will require repacked broadcasters to periodically report to the Commission on their progress in moving to new channels, and directed the Media Bureau to develop a form for progress reports and to “seek public comment on these forms prior to the commencement of the reimbursement process.”
With the news that the auction is in its final stage, NAB feels the release of the proposed reporting form “is particularly timely.”
But, NAB says the proposed form simply “represents a good start to developing a reasonable reporting program.”
Specific recommendations to make broadcaster reports “more accurate and less burdensome” include allowing broadcasters additional options to provide accurate responses, allowing non-reimbursable stations to also submit progress reports, and adjusting the requirements for the submission of progress reports.
“The Commission must not seek to compel broadcasters to operate with significantly diminished facilities solely to maintain the fiction that its arbitrary 39-month deadline for the completion of repacking is achievable,” the NAB concludes.