Dell's OTA Wants More Info on 'Bottleneck' Stations

Says it will help marketplace speed post-auction repack

OTA Broadcasting, which is owned by computer pioneer Michael Dell, is pushing the FCC to release information on which stations could be a bottleneck to the post-incentive auction repack, or could break up some of the daisy chains of station moves currently planned.

That’s according to an ex parte filing on separate meetings last week between OTA representatives and FCC chairman Ajit Pai, as well as staff members for the other commissioners and officials in the Media Bureau and the general counsel’s office.

Letting broadcasters see under the hood would “allow market forces to incentivize[ as in pay them] stations to voluntarily relinquish their licenses or use temporary channels,” OTA Broadcasting said.

OTA comprises independent stations in major markets, which were in prime position to enter and cash in on the auction.

Among those who represented OTA before FCC was Preston Padden, formerly head of the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, which represented such auction-interested stations before the agency’s rules against prohibited communications kicked in, prompting the coalition’s dissolution.

Broadcasters will have 39 months to complete the repack once the FCC has officially closed the auction and informed stations of where they are moving. The public notice triggering that 39-month timetable will likely be issued sometime in mid-April. But the FCC has already informed stations of their new channel assignments to allow for immediate planning.

The repack will be in 10 phases and will include daisy chains of connected moves. Making that process easier could ensure there will be no undue delay in getting the spectrum into new hands.

The fewer stations that need to be repacked, for example, the less drain there would be on such resources as tower crews, and the less chance the transition could be delayed.

The proposal is under review for its potential impact on the repack, an FCC spokesperson said.