If you filed any applications for new Low Power Television (LPTV) stations during the 2009 application window, your applications have not yet been granted, and channels you requested have been displaced by a full power or Class A TV station as a result of the spectrum repack, you now have an opportunity to request new channels. Starting today and ending January 31, 2020, you may amend your applications to change channels.
The spectrum repack reduced the television broadcast band from Channels 2-51 to Channels 2-36. Channels 38-51 were reallocated and auctioned to wireless service providers. (Channel 37, never used for TV, continues to be reserved for radioastronomy and will also serve as a “guard band” between TV and wireless services.) The last time that applications for new LPTV stations were accepted by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) was in 2009, before anyone knew that Channels 38-51 would be taken away from TV. Many applicants requested channels from 38 to 51. Other applicants requested channels from 2 to 36; but in some cases, their channels are no longer available because of channel changes by full power and Class A stations during the repack.
Pending applicants whose channels are no longer available must either file for new channels by January 21, 2020, or face permanent dismissal of their applications.
The FCC provided two previous opportunities for displaced LPTV stations to seek new channels, but only entities with granted licenses or construction permits were eligible to apply. The first window was in April-May of 2018, and was open only to stations that were operating as of April 13, 2017. Next, the FCC ended a freeze on displacement and digital companion channel applications and announced that it would accept those two types of applications from both operating and non-operating stations that had been granted licenses or construction permits, but not from applicants who had never received a grant of any kind. Now the door is open to amendments to pending applications that have never been granted.
The first window was limited in time, and all applications filed during the window were deemed to have been filed on the same day (the final day of the window) for purposes of determining mutual exclusivity. After the freeze was lifted, applications were accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, with every applicant required to protect not only granted authorizations but also previously filed pending applications. Today’s window will again be limited in time. All applications filed at any time before the window closes at 11:59 p.m. on January 31, 2020 will be deemed to have been filed on that date. Therefore, there is no need to rush and be the first to file, because there will be no benefit to doing so in terms of application processing priority.
All applications filed during the new window will be processed together to determine which ones are mutually exclusive. Once that determination has been made, an opportunity will be provided for further engineering amendments or settlements. Ultimately, in the absence of voluntary resolutions, the FCC may have to hold an auction among the remaining mutually exclusive applicants; but it has previously indicated a strong desire to encourage settlements and to avoid any LPTV auctions. Indeed, after the first window in 2018, all applicants whose applications were compliant with FCC requirements ultimately reached settlements of one kind or another, and no auction was ever held.
Only amendments to pending applications filed in 2009 will be accepted during this window. Applications for new stations will not be accepted. Amendments will have to protect all previously filed applications, whether granted or still pending. Moreover, the FCC will retain the rural location limitation from the 2009 window. Applications filed in 2009 had to specify transmitter locations at least 121 km/75 miles from the center of a list of top 100 cities specified by the FCC (based on 2008 Nielsen data) and could not be moved to within 75 miles until after the application was granted and the station constructed. Amendments filed during the new window may propose transmitter site changes of up to 48 km/30 miles, but any proposed new sites must remain outside of the same top 100 cities. A list of those cities and the geographic coordinates for measuring 75-mile distances is attached to the public notice announcing the window.
All amendments must be filed through the FCC’s online Licensing and Management System (LMS) even though the original applications were filed through the Consolidated Database System (CDBS). The CDBS TV application database has been migrated to LMS. You must access LMS using your FCC Registration Number (FRN) and password, not your CDBS account number and password.
It’s time to dust off those old 2009 filings, figure out which ones are still viable, determine whether they are displaced, and file for new channels for displaced proposals. As indicated above, the new window is not first-come, first-served, so you don’t have to drive yourself crazy to file early. However, those who wait to file until the last-day risk bumping up against what will likely be an overloaded and unforgiving online FCC filing system on that day and might miss the deadline.