FCC Proposes Mandating Progress Reports From Nonreimbursed Stations

Is finalizing plans for post-incentive auction repack progress reports

The FCC's Media Bureau has tentatively concluded that both stations being reimbursed for moving expenses after the spectrum auction and those who will not be reimbursed but will be moving anyway should file periodic progress reports with the commission.

That came in a public notice Tuesday describing the information broadcasters will need to include in those reports.

Broadcasters who won their auction bids to move from UHF to VHF or from higher V to lower V channel positions won't get moving expenses paid out of the $1.75 billion transition fund—they are expected to use some of the money from those multi-million dollar FCC payouts to pay for their moves.

But while broadcasters who are getting reimbursed are required to file periodic progress reports "showing how the disbursed funds have been spent and what portion of their construction is complete," the same requirement was not put on nonreimbursable stations.

But given that those stations will also be part of the daisy chain of moves and equipment upgrades, the FCC is asking for public comment on whether it should require reports from them as well, suggesting that it should.

"We believe that data that includes only Reimbursable Stations and excludes Non-Reimbursable Stations will not completely capture the progress of all stations, and therefore may compromise the ability of the Commission, broadcasters, tower companies, equipment providers, engineering consultants, other interested parties, and the public to monitor the progress of the transition during the 39-month transition period," the FCC said.

Conversely, the bureau said, requiring the reports from everyone means that the transition ecosystem of regulators, broadcasters and related industries "will be able to promptly identify potential resource bottlenecks and stations that may have difficulty meeting their construction deadlines, or are experiencing other problems, and take steps to mitigate any adverse impact on the completion of the transition."

Among the information the FCC will require in those reports is whether FAA approval for new facilities—some of the towers are massive—has been requested or granted, the status of necessary permits, and what equipment has been ordered or received.