FCC Publishes Data on Station Repacking

The FCC Monday released data meant to help broadcasters get a better handle on how they may be repacked after the incentive auctions, and how the FCC intends to protect their coverage areas and signals in that process. That includes what new channels stations would be able to move to and the latest OET 69 software the FCC is using to figure out interference protections.

According to a source the three key data sets in the public notice are: 1) the most recent version of software implementing OET 69 methodology for calculating interference; 2) data about domestic TV stations and other broadcast band incumbents as well as Canadian and Mexican TV allotments (essentially a survey of the current state of the band to give a sense of what constraints there are in terms of moving); and 3) a preliminary staff analysis of what channels each TV station could be reassigned or assigned to in their home band in light of interference and other requirements of spectrum auction legislation -- that legislation requires that the FCC make its best effort to preserve coverage areas and interference protections.

That is according FCC officials familiar with the public notice, which comes on the eve of a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on the incentive auctions. An FCC official familiar with the document insisted it was a coincidence that the notice was coming out the day before the hearing, at which broadcasters and wireless companies plan to tell Congress they want more info from the FCC, including how stations are going to be repacked and signals protected.

But he said this was just the beginning of the data drop. "We anticipate this will be the first of a series of public notices to provide the public the opportunity for meaningful input on the repacking process. This is not the entire methodology," the source said. For example, it won't say how the FCC will select the ultimate channels that broadcasters may be placed on or how it will choose the bids in a public auction.

The FCC has set no comment deadline on the data. "We felt we would provide interested parties the greatest flexibility by not imposing any kind of comment deadlines but letting parties provide input as they are ready."

"Repacking, or the re-assignment of channels to broadcast television stations that remain on air after the incentive auction, is required to free up contiguous blocks of spectrum for mobile broadband use," said an FCC spokesman. "As directed by Congress, the FCC will ensure this process makes all reasonable efforts to preserve the coverage area and population served of each broadcast television licensee."

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.