Last week the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force and the Media Bureau announced the opening of a 60-day filing window for those LPTV stations who are being displaced as a result of the post-incentive auction repacking process. The “Special Displacement Window” applies to certain LPTV stations, TV translators, and analog-to-digital replacement translators. The window will be open from Tuesday, April 10 through Tuesday, May 15 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Once a station has identified which channel it wants – and on which it can operate without causing unacceptable interference — it should file a construction permit application during this filing window.
This special filing window is open to “operating” and “displaced” LPTV/translator stations only. An LPTV is considered “operating” for purposes of this window if it was licensed, or had a license to cover application on file, as of April 13, 2017 – the date on which the incentive auction closed. “Displaced” stations are defined by the Media Bureau as stations that:
- are authorized on channels that are being taken by a full power or Class A television station in the repacked television band (channels 2- 36) as a result of the incentive auction and repacking process;
- are licensed on frequencies that will serve as part of the 600 MHz Band guard bands (which includes the duplex gap).
In conjunction with this filing window, the FCC has announced that it is releasing data that, according to the Media Bureau, “identifies locations and channels where LPTV/translator stations filing applications in the Special Displacement Window likely cannot propose displacement facilities because of the presences of non-displaced LPTV/translator stations and permittees, full power and Class A television stations, or land mobile operations.” Displaced stations should consider this information in determining what channels may be available to them in the filing window.
To increase the number of available channels, the FCC also clarified that displaced LPTV/TV Translator stations may apply to operate on channels (between 2 and 36) that are currently occupied by full-power or Class A stations, but that those stations are giving up in the repack. Any applications for such channels may only be filed on the condition that operations will not begin until the full power or Class A licensee vacates the channel.
All applications filed during the Special Window will be treated as having been filed on the same date, so there is no advantage to filing on the first day of the window. We strongly recommend not trying to file on the last day, because FCC online applications system have in the past crashed when overwhelmed with too many filings on one day.
The FCC has been very reluctant to hold LPTV/translator auctions in the past, because they have not drawn enough money in bids to pay for the cost of the auction; so it is likely that the FCC will offer one or more settlement opportunities mutually exclusive applicants can make deals (though probably not “for-profit” deals).
The one exception to all applications being treated the same is that applications for fill-in translators by full power stations will have priority over LPTV and other translator applications.
In conjunction with this filing window, the FCC has announced that it is releasing data that, according to the Media Bureau, “identifies locations and channels where LPTV/translator stations filing applications in the Special Displacement Window likely cannot propose displacement facilities because of the presences of non-displaced LPTV/translator stations and permittees, full power and Class A television stations, or land mobile operations.” It is likely that you will need professional engineering assistance to make use of this information.
If you need advice on navigating this filing window, we will have attorneys ready to help with strategy and application preparation.
While details will be coming out shortly in another public notice, mark your calendars for a webinar on Feb.28 at 1 p.m. in which the Incentive Auction Task Force and the Media Bureau will get into the weeds on the data set and answer questions from LPTV licensees. For advice on navigating this filing window, reach out to us at www.fhhlaw.com.
**Editor’s Note: This post was updated on 02/14/2018.