To spur participation in its incentive auction, the FCC early on adopted rules allowing full-power and Class A television licensees to share a single TV channel. That gave them an option to sell their spectrum to the Commission while also staying on the air.

In 2015, the Commission expanded channel-sharing to low-power Television licensees and TV translators. The goal then was to give them alternatives if they were displaced by the auction and subsequent channel repack.

Now, the FCC plans to further expand the channel-sharing rules among those not taking part in the auction by allowing full power and Class A stations to enter new Channel Sharing Agreements (CSAs) once their auction-related CSA ends. The changes would also allow Class A stations not subject to an auction-related CSA to channel-share with another station; and full power and Class A stations to channel-share with LPTV and TV translator stations. In a factsheet that accompanies the Report and Order to be voted on at the Open Meeting on Thursday, the FCC calls these additions “logical extensions” of the agency’s 2014 decision to adopt more flexible auction-related channel sharing rules.

The Order would preserve carriage rights (as they existed on November 30, 2010) for full power stations that share a channel with another station not taking part in the auction. Secondary stations like LPTV stations and TV translators, as well as the “host” sharing stations would retain their carriage rights unchanged as well, provided the “sharee” station is operating on a non-shared channel when the FCC releases its anticipated Public Notice concerning closings and channel reassignments soon after the auction closes.

As with the types of CSAs previously approved by the FCC, each station would still be separately licensed, maintain its call sign and remain subject to FCC rules. A Class A, LPTV or TV translator sharing a channel with a full power “host” station outside of the auction would be allowed to operate with the technical facilities of the full power station. An LPTV or TV translator in this situation would obtain a sort of “quasi” primary interference protection while the agreement lasts because the full power or Class A is a primary licensee, according to the R&O. However, a full power station sharing a Class A or secondary station’s channel would need to operate at the Class A or secondary station’s lower power level. Such a station would still need to satisfy community of license coverage requirements, but would be subject to potential displacement if it were sharing with an LPTV “host” station.

There are many more details in the R&O that could affect your station. Please contact FHH with any questions about either the auction itself, the repack or channel sharing agreements.