At yesterday’s House Communications Subcommittee’s Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, along with his fellow commissioners, said that the FCC would not force broadcasters off the air who missed the 39-month repacking deadline for moving to new channels.
Wheeler said that the deadline was not a “drop off the edge of the table” situation, since there was an extra six months built into the post auction deadline and the FCC would work with broadcasters. However a recent report from Digital Tech Consulting, commissioned by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), states that the work could take up to 11 years if a full complement of broadcasters participate I the repacking.
Justifying the now 45-month completion timeframe, Wheeler noted that the NAB had suggested that they only needed 30 months for the transition.
However, the NAB fired back with a denial stating that Wheeler was misguided and his statement didn’t tell the full story.
“In its initial comments in January 2013, NAB argued that the FCC’s proposal setting a repacking deadline of 18 months was misguided. We asserted that the FCC would need at least 30 months for repacking, and that it should use the $1.75 billion relocation fund as a budget for repacking – estimating that could cover 400-500 stations. Since that time, three things have happened,” the FCC said in its statement.
“First, the FCC has released repacking simulations suggesting that well over a thousand stations (more than twice as many as anyone anticipated) could need to move. Second, the FCC adopted a hard deadline for all stations to move, which surprisingly would force them off the air regardless of circumstances. Third, NAB undertook a study earlier this year – the first of its kind – that analyzed how long it would take to conduct a nationwide repack. We shared this study with the FCC a number of months ago. Both the scope of repacking and the consequences for broadcasters unable to move are radically different than proposed or contemplated in the record.”