Public Stations Ask FCC to Accommodate Noncoms in Repack

Say public procurement process, their place in vendor triage, could delay post-auction moves

Public TV stations want the FCC to take note of equipment and service procurement requirements on noncoms (public bidding processes, for one) that don't apply to commercial stations and take that into account as it finalizes the plan for repacking TV stations into new channels after the broadcast spectrum auction.

In comments to the FCC, PBS, CPB and America’s Public Television Stations APTS (collectively "PTV") said those requirements will affect how quickly stations can make the move to new channels relative to commercial stations and wants the FCC to accommodate those potential delays when setting construction deadlines, including having a process for extending those deadlines in place from the outset.

"Potential vendors may not prioritize (or even participate in) public bidding processes where such companies are already being pushed to their capacity limits addressing the needs of other television stations that do not require vendors to navigate complicated state procurement processes," the noncoms told the commission.

Given public TV's heavy reliance on TV translators—583 at PTV's last round—which relay signals to hard-to-reach areas, PTV wants the FCC to open the displaced translator filing window (translators are not protected in the repack) ASAP after full-power construction permits are issued—those get priority over translators.

PTV says public procurement requirements (advertising RFPs, issuing awards, etc.) apply to about 40% of PBS member stations—those are ones licensed to government entities, like public universities and state agencies.

PTV also says that if the FCC's $1.75 billion does not wind up covering all the moving costs, noncoms may have to seek capital funding from states or universities, which also could delay construction.

PTV wants the FCC to build in mechanisms to identify public TV licensees subject to those potential delays—it lists several examples by way of illustration—and factor the delays into its phased transition and extension process.

The spectrum auction, now in stage three, could end by late December or continue into the new year.