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FCC Provides Coronavirus-Related Relief for Repack Stations

The FCC is cutting TV stations a repack break.

Phase nine of the FCC's ten-phase post incentive auction repack of TV stations began March 14 with a deadline of May 1. But recognizing the coronavirus pandemic is prompting construction and delivery delays, plus the station efforts to keep their employees safe, that make that deadline problematic, the FCC said Tuesday (March 17) it would let any phase 9 station with issues move to the tenth and last phase, which starts May 2 and ends July 3. 

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Such requests will need to be filed as a legal request for special temporary authority in the FCC's Licensing Management System. 

Stations in phase nine that can finish their transition by the original deadline are free to, unless their move is linked to a station moving to phase 10--there are a lot of moving and connected parts to the repack. 

The FCC said it is sticking with that new timetable for now, but " will continue to monitor the situation and will announce any other changes that may be warranted."

“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 of 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.”

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.