Bureau announces, sort of, deadline for eligibility for first post-Spectrum Auction displacement window.

LPTV and TV Translator licensees have known for some time – at least since last December – that they’re going to need to be “operating” as of a certain date in order to be eligible for the first displacement window that will open post-auction. But what that “certain date” might be has been, um, less than certain.

No longer, according to the Commission. In a public notice the Media Bureau says that it has “announce[d] the deadline for identifying operating” stations. And what might that date be? Get your calendars out.

According to the Bureau’s announcement, the crucial date is “the date that the Channel Reassignment Public Notice is released following the completion of the reverse auction.”

Got that? We’ll give you a minute or two to find that in your calendar and mark it up.

To be honest, the Bureau’s assertion that it’s announcing the “date” is less than accurate, seeing as how it provides no actual “date”. But, to be fair, that’s not entirely the Bureau’s fault. The eventual deadline will necessarily depend on when the Spectrum Auction wraps up, and at this point that’s anybody’s guess. But the Bureau recognizes that LPTV/Translator folks deserve some idea of when their eligibility will be determined, since they will be required to have taken steps in order to insure their eligibility as of whatever date the deadline happens to be.

So here’s what we know. The LPTV/Translator displacement window will be available to stations that are “operating” as of the deadline. By “operating”, the Bureau has clarified that a station will be deemed “operating” if it “has licensed its authorized construction permit facilities or has an application for a license to cover on file with the Commission on that date”. And the deadline? The Bureau candidly – oh sure, it’s stuck in a footnote, but it’s still candid – acknowledges that it “cannot predict with certainty” what the deadline will actually be. But it figures that, “given the current status of the ongoing Incentive Auction”, putting everybody on notice now will give all affected folks enough notice to make their plans accordingly.

What exactly does that mean? It’s hard to say, of course. But it’s at least a plausible guess that the FCC’s auction simulations are telling them that the auction could wrap up close to the absolute shortest possible timeline (possibly as little as three months, but it really is anybody’s guess), so they better put out some notice, even if it’s not really a “notice” in the sense that it provides any, like, actual notice.

What this does confirm is the common sense wisdom that any LPTV or TV Translator permittee hoping to get into the displacement window should get cranking on their construction ASAP, if they haven’t already done so.