FCC Easing Deadline for TV Stations in Auction Repack Phase 9


The coronavirus pandemic has led the FCC to allow any station scheduled to complete its post-spectrum auction transition to a new channel in Phase 9 that believes it may be unable to meet the May 1 deadline to apply for a waiver and reassignment to Phase 10.

The Commission on March 13 began to assess the post-auction repack process and phase timetable, when President Trump declared a national emergency as a result of the COVID-19 virus.

Stations assigned to Phase 8 successfully met their Friday transition deadline.

That said, the FCC granted construction permit extensions to certain stations assigned to phase 8 “in light of delivery delays of equipment being manufactured outside the United States.”

On Tuesday (3/17), the Commission became aware that “at least one tower company” has imposed a two-week suspension of field service, including work on repack-related construction, while it evaluates the evolving situation.

The Commission did not reveal the tower company suspending its field service. But, the FCC anticipates that there may be additional suspensions of service “and other developments” that could impact the transition.

As such, stations in Phase 9, which began Friday and is scheduled to end May 1, will be granted a waiver and reassignment to phase 10, which begins on May 2 and ends on July 3 — but only if a waiver request is filed as a legal request for special temporary authority in the FCC’s Licensing Management System and with a copy via email to [email protected]v and [email protected].

With equipment delays or tower crew unavailability a growing concern, the NAB cheered the FCC decision to ease the repack deadlines for impacted stations.

“NAB strongly supports the FCC’s additional flexibility with respect to Phase 9 of the TV repack given the uncertainty over tower equipment delivery delays related to the worldwide coronavirus crisis,” said NAB EVP/Communications Dennis Wharton. “In this time of uncertainty, it’s vital that local TV viewers maintain access to credible broadcast news sources. We look forward to a speedy end to the viral pandemic, and a resumption of work by tower crews to successfully complete the repack and ensure access to our tens of millions of viewers.”