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FCC Maintains Reporting Requirements for TV Station Auction Winners

The FCC has denied requests that it adjust its quarterly repack progress report requirements for TV stations getting payouts from the FCC's $1.75 billion repack relocation fund to change channels in the post incentive auction repack. In addition it has adopted a similar reporting requirement—same manner, same timetable—for stations that did win money in the auction and have to change channels. The winners do not get to tap the fund since they got millions in payouts.

The FCC adopted the auction nonparticipant reporting requirements on Jan. 10.

In a just-published decision issued by the Media Bureau and Incentive Auction Task Force, the FCC rejected proposals by the National Association of Broadcasters and T-Mobile, which won the most licenses in the auction and thus has the most spectrum to reclaim from broadcasters, to modify the Jan. 10 progress report regime, and extended it in the same form to auction-winning stations, as it had proposed to do in January.

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The FCC wants to know where everyone is on their respective repack timelines—it is being done in 10 phases—given that most of a thousand stations have to change channels, some linked in chains of interrelated moves like dominos.

As a result, the task force and bureau have adopted the proposed progress report form on delegated authority—the commissioners don't have to vote.

The form is intended to gather the relevant information about completion of tasks needed to meet expenditure and construction "milestones," taking delivery of equipment, for example, or finishing work on a new or modified tower. It wants to be able to identify problems that might make it hard for stations to meet their deadlines.

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In extending the reporting requirements to non-reimbursed stations, the FCC pointed out that both wireless companies and the National Association of Broadcasters agreed that those stations should submit reports since both repack-fund eligible and non-eligible stations will be dipping into the same resource pool—tower crews, equipment, consultants—and that the progress of both types of TV stations is equally important to the goal of freeing up the band for wireless.

While NAB had asked for changes to some of the questions on the progress report form, the FCC declined to adopt them, which it treated as requests for reconsideration, and denied them. For one thing, NAB wanted some wiggle room, with the addition of an "unknown at this time" box to check rather than just a yes or no given the potential uncertainties of the never-before-tried repack. "We disagree that “virtually every question on the proposed form may be subject to uncertainty," the FCC said.

T-Mobile had asked for a greater level of detail from broadcasters, but "balancing the burdens on broadcasters" in the scale, denied that request as well. 

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NAB had asked the FCC to make the reports biannual rather than quarterly, with other reports at major milestones. The FCC said it was sticking with quarterly to guarantee a "consistent flow" of information.

Group owners also will not be allowed to file a single report for all of their stations, as NAB had asked. The FCC suggested that checking off yes, no and N/A boxes for individual stations should not be too heavy a lift.

The reporting schedule for all stations moving channels in the repack is as follows:

"Non-Reimbursable Stations must file the Transition Progress Report on a quarterly basis, with the first Report being filed beginning for the first full quarter after the release of a public notice announcing the completion of the incentive auction.  The deadline for filing the first Report is October 10, 2017.  We further require that Non-Reimbursable Stations file Transition Progress Reports: (1) 10 weeks before the end of their assigned construction deadline; (2) 10 days after they complete all work related to construction of their post-auction facilities; and (3) five days after they cease broadcasting on their pre-auction channel.  The Transition Progress Reports will be filed electronically using the Commission’s electronic filing system, and the Commission will make the filings viewable in stations’ online public inspection files.  All reassigned stations are assigned to one of 10 Post-Auction Transition Plan Phase with construction deadline requirements ranging from November 30, 2018 to July 3, 2020.  Once a station has ceased operating on its pre-auction channel, it no longer needs to file reports."