Rick Kaplan, NAB executive VP and general counsel

NAB Won’t Challenge Repack Timeline

But group says Congress should clarify that no broadcaster will be forced off-air

The National Association of Broadcasters has told Congress that it will not ask lawmakers to mandate a longer post-incentive auction TV station repack timeline than the 39 months set by the FCC.

Broadcasters have been working and are working to meet that deadline, but the association is also looking for assurances from Congress that if unforeseen situations arise, they will not be pushed off the air, the NAB said.

That came in testimony from NAB executive VP and General Counsel Rick Kaplan. The NAB has long said it thought the 39-month timeline would not be enough time, but its focus now appears to be ensuring that there is sufficient flexibility baked in as it tries to meet that deadline.

The FCC has a waiver process for situations beyond broadcasters’ control, but it also signaled that flexibility should not necessarily extend to pushing beyond that 39-month deadline, a deadline wireless carriers have said they had counted on and factored into their bids for the spectrum in the incentive auction.

“Broadcasters are not proposing a new repacking deadline or even a blanket, open-ended extension of the FCC’s current 39-month repacking window,” Kaplan told Congress. “What we are seeking, however, is for Congress to make clear that no individual station should go off the air or have a significant reduction in service if circumstances beyond its control prevent its transition at the assigned time.”

Broadcasters have told Congress there are two keys to a successful repack, enough money and enough time. Legislators generally are in agreement that more money is needed, but the time issue remains more problematic, with various legislators citing the need to get the spectrum in the hands of wireless carriers.

The first TV stations — in phase one — must switch channels by Nov. 30, 2018, so broadcasters said Congress needs to move quickly to clarify that broadcasters and their viewers would not be sacrificed to a hard timeline.