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Editorial: Charting TV’s Future

The FCC has given TV stations a glimpse of their post-incentive auction future, and, to borrow from the movies: “It’s complicated.”

What was already a Rubiks cube of complexity will get a whole new level of complexity thanks to the physics of the post-auction repack.

The FCC has released its proposal for how stations will be moved to new channels after the auction, but it remains a frame without a picture until after the auction closes and the agency knows how many stations it will need to rearrange, and where they have to go.

As expected, the transition will come in phases, but rather than repacking by region—which would be the easiest for scheduling tower crews—the moves will be driven by the physics linking stations whose moves are interdependent.

In the meantime, the FCC promises that it is open to altering the plan based on input from broadcast and wireless companies and tower crews, who will all be involved in the move.

Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake concedes that, as with the rest of the auction, the FCC is doing something for which there is little or no precedent. Given that fact, it needs to accept as much help from stakeholders as it needs to get this right.

It will take unprecedented cooperation as chains of interdependent stations have to test equipment and signals.

All that argues for regulatory humility and flexibility.

We encourage broadcasters to speak up, and out, on any flaws in the process, and for the FCC to be as open to change as it says it is.