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FCC: TVs Could Use NAB Convention To Help Coordinate Repack

An FCC official said Monday (March 14) that the post-auction transition clock--90 days to file construction permits, a total of 39 months for the transition--will begin with the release of the auction closing and reassignment public notice in mid-April.

That mid-April time frame is based on the auction closing on March 30 barring any weather-related delays.

At the FCC's post-incentive auction repack workshop, an FCC official was asked whether the FCC might push the deadlines a couple of weeks given that broadcasters will be preparing for the National Association of Broadcasters convent in Las Vegas, which starts April 22.

"Short answer is no," said Incentive Auction Task Force Deputy Chair Jean Kiddo, who was presiding over the workshop. She said the transition period will start with the issuance of the public notice. But she did say that was why the FCC had already issued confidential letters informing station of their new channel numbers ASAP.

Kiddoo said that, "hopefully," stations could actually use the NAB timing to their advantage, "by talking to other stations and coordinating with them where they can."

There were numerous questions asked at the almost-two-hour workshop, with various auction staffers there to field them.

A station may be able to accept a payment from a broadband company to vacate their channel early, for example, but the FCC will look at such requests on a case-by-case basis.

The FCC will also consider requests for stations to start broadcasting early on their post-transition channel, but it will be looking at the impact on the whole transition--which is occurring in phases and will include "chains" of stations whose moves are linked. Among the considerations are how "lighting up" a new station early affects availability of tower crews and equipment.

The officials said that the FCC would not let a station who is vacating a channel go off the air early unless it can't remain on the air due to circumstances beyond its control.

Stations will have to air PSAs to inform viewers or the transition, but won't have necessarily have to use ad inventory. An FCC official said that such an advisory could be broadcast as part of a newscast, so long as it met the criteria for duration.