FCC Frees Up More Money for TV Station Repack

The FCC has released its status report on the post-broadcast incentive auction TV station repack, which involves most of 1,000 full powers and 2,000 low powers in a 10-phase plan, and as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai signaled last week, the commission is ahead of schedule. It is also freeing up more money for the TV station transition.

"We are pleased to report that the transition is off to a very strong start on all counts, and that the Transition Scheduling Plan and the Commission’s rules, procedures, and systems are operating as designed and anticipated," the Incentive Auction Task Force and Media Bureau said. "[T]he transition is ahead of schedule both in terms of the number of stations that have already vacated their pre-auction channels and the amount of 600 MHz spectrum that has been cleared and therefore made available for use by wireless auction winners.

The FCC said that among the wireless carriers, T-Mobile, the auction's biggest winner, said it has already launched service using its broadcast spectrum in more than 1,500 cities in 37 states and Puerto Rico.

Related: DOJ OK With Scripps-Cordillera Station Buy

The auction closed April 13, 2017, with 84 MHz of spectrum raising almost $20 billion, including $7 billion for deficit reduction. The stations being repacked into new channels so the 84 MHz can be used by wireless carriers have until July 3, 2020, to make the move.

Only 175 stations agreed to give up spectrum, but another 987 stations had to be reassigned to new channels to free up that 84 MHz spectrum.

Those 175 stations have already been paid over $10 billion, the FCC said.

Of the 175, only 41 went off the air, with 30 changing from UHF to VHF licenses and the other 104 striking deals to share channels with another station.

Phase one of the 10-phase transition ended Nov. 30, 2018, with all stations meeting their deadline, except those granted extensions or moves to other phases. Even so, some other stations in other phases moved early, so that 172 stations have made the move, or 17% of the total 987 repacked stations vacating their pre-auction channel.

The FCC announced that it would be allocating an additional $68.1 million to 316 full power and Class A stations from the incentive auction repack fund created by Congress, boosting the total allocated so far to $1,808,722,301.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.