NAB, Harris: FCC Needs to Build In More Planning Time to TV Station Relocation
FCC workshop kicks off process of designing station relocation/reimbursement framework
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/25/2012 4:21:25 PM
The FCC held a workshop on its design of a program to reimburse broadcasters for channel relocations after the FCC reclaims some broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband through reverse auctions, and the general agreement was that the FCC needed to provide sufficient opportunity for planning of those moves.
In introducing the panel discussion, which was moderated by the Media Bureau's Rebecca Hanson, Bureau Chief Bill Lake said the FCC's goals in coming up with a plan and spending up to $1.75 billion to do so were simplicity, promptness and fairness. He said the reimbursement was not meant to be Christmas or winning the lottery. He also said the workshop was more about teeing up the right questions to ask when the FCC issues its first notices of proposed rulemaking this fall.
Currently, the deadline for the FCC and broadcasters to complete what amounts to a second DTV transition is within three years after the end of the auction. While that deadline was set by Congress, Jane Mago, who represented the National Association of Broadcasters, said the FCC could ultimately control the time period by tying the end of the auctions to when broadcasters had had sufficient time to plan for their moves, which would be after the FCC made it clear how many stations were moving and where they would be going. Making the end of the auction when everyone has full knowledge of what is going on "might not be a bad definition," said Mago.
That was seconded by Harris Corp. VP Jay Adrick, who suggested that three-year deadline could not start until 18-24 months after the auction bidding had filled in those blanks, or there would be "chaos."
Among the questions the FCC said needed to be answered was whether and how much of the funding should be in advance and how much in arrears. Most of the workshop panelists agreed that some smaller stations, noncoms, religious, others, would need money in advance.
Another was whether that should be an exact payment or receipts, or in "bands" or ranges of payments.
Simplicity may be one of the FCC's goals, but Adrick made it clear what kind of complexity the commission must deal with. There will be tower studies, permits, testing, zoning issues, not to mention, though Mago and Adrick did more than once, the limited number of crews -- 14 in the nation says Adrick -- that have the expertise to work on tall towers (1,000-2,000 feet).
Another reason Mago gave for not rushing broadcasters was that when smaller companies with less tall-tower experience had been enlisted to help with tower revamps in the first DTV transition, in some cases lives were lost.
One of the reasons for building plenty of planning time into the relocation, said Mago and Adrick, who were clearly on the same page was that the technology would need to be tailored to different stations' needs to replicated their coverage areas. Mago conceded that stations might be able to replicated that coverage exactly--the statute says the FCC ahs to do its best--that still needed to be pretty close. Brett Haah, of consulting firm Deloitte, said that another reason was that planning would give stakeholders confidence in the process. Patrica Tillala, VP, of spectrum, for Verizon, wasn't as high on broadcasters extending that three years. She said that wireless buyers of spectrum needed to be able to do planning of their own.
Adrick had plenty of other complications--and expenses--for the FCC to ponder, including insurance, power to temporary facilitates so broadcasters could stay on their while they were being relocated, manufacturing capacity, the need for either larger antennas or more powerful transmitters and broadcasters moved to lower bands.
Adrick said that until it was determined how many stations were moving, when they were moving, and where they would have to move, they were just dealing with conjecture.
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