OTA Broadcasting: Let Stations Under Repack Hood

OTA Broadcasting—which was formed in 2011 by computer pioneer Michael Dell to buy up stations presumably to offer up in the FCC spectrum auction so the spectrum could be repurposed for wireless broadband—has asked the FCC to let private industry help out more in the post-auction repack.

The FCC's spectrum auction appears to be drawing to a close, after which stations will have a little over three years to relocate to smaller spectrum quarters.

In informal comments to the FCC, OTA said it made sense for the FCC to "harness free market forces to help to streamline and to expedite the post 600 MHz auction channel repacking transition," arguing that otherwise the transition could fall behind and fail to meet its 39-month goal.

Specifically, OTA says the FCC should let those companies get a look under the hood at "the tools that it has developed to assign post auction channels, the tools that it has developed to assign broadcast stations to transition phases, and any and all other tools…"

The idea is to let broadcasters identify as soon as possible the stations that could present "bottlenecks" to repurposing the spectrum and to eliminate some linked station sets.

The post-auction repack will include daisy chains of stations whose moves are interrelated.

OTA says allowing that data dump would further FCC chairman Ajit Pai's goal of “working with broadcasters and wireless carriers going forward on further steps to ensure a smooth post-auction transition.”

OTA warned that "many parties in both the broadcasting and wireless industries have expressed well-grounded concerns that the transition will fall behind schedule and that the 39 month goal will not be achieved."

While it says the FCC's plan is essentially "command and control," letting stations partner more fully in the effort would help "streamline and expedite."

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.