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FCC Will Help 'Phase Zero' LPTVs

The FCC will allow LPTVs and translators a way to stay on the air if T-Mobile asks them to exit their spectrum before the first special displacement window for seeking new channels opens, likely in early 2018. 

LPTVs had said T-Mobile contacted some stations about possibly wanting to light up the spectrum they bought in the incentive auction by the end of the year, which they pointed out was before they were going to get a chance to try and find new channels. 

The LPTVs also threatened to try and block the repack if the FCC did not give them some help.

Help, the FCC's Incentive Auction Task Force and Media Bureau signaled, is on the way.

"It appears that some LPTV/translator stations currently operating on channels 38 through 51 may receive notice that T-Mobile will commence operations on its newly licensed spectrum prior to the Special Displacement Window opening in 2018," they said in a public notice.

Given that, translators who get the (required) 120-day's notice from T-Mobile or another forward auction winner that the spectrum is being claimed will have two options, and that comes before the FCC opens the special window, can file for a special temporary channel or strike a temporary channel-sharing deal. 

The LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition had threatened to try and stop the FCC repack process unless the FCC addressed its issue with the so-called "Phase Zero."

NAB, which had called on the FCC to help LPTVs, was pleased.

"NAB appreciates the FCC’s expeditious action granting our request that translators and low-power television stations displaced by the incentive auction be allowed to temporarily operate on alternative channels," said NAB. "Today’s order is a positive step towards mitigating the incentive auction’s impact on the tens of thousands of viewers who rely on these important sources of news, entertainment and emergency weather warnings. NAB will continue working with the FCC to help affected translators and LPTVs find a permanent home on the broadcast television dial."

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.