FCC Repack In A Nutshell

By Doug Thompson, Hitachi-Comark TV

We have been anticipating the effects of the FCC Incentive Auction “repack” for five years now. It’s finally here. The auctions are over, the 399’s have been turned in and the channels have been changed. But now… we continue to wait. Here’s why:

Repack is currently in “Phase 0”: The FCC has allocated all the new RF channels

  • Broadcasters have submitted their documentation
  • Construction Permits have been issued by the FCC
  • The FCC is reviewing individual DTV station repack plans and associated budgets (Schedule 399)

However, the FCC’s Repack Fund is short:

  • FCC originally estimated $1.75 billion to cover the repack
    • Broadcasters submitted budgets totaling $2.139 billion
    • Careful review of 399’s reduced total budget to $1.864 billion
  • FCC notified broadcasters on Oct. 15, 2017 that they will:
    • Release $1 billion of the fund for immediate use
    • But, hold back $750 million, which means
    • Broadcasters will have access to only 52 percent of their submitted repack expenses budget
  • To facilitate an orderly repack of roughly a thousand stations, the FCC assigned each station to one of 10 phases.
  • Each phase has about 100 TV stations. The table below shows the dates for each state of the 10 phases.
Phase Phase Start Date 399 Due To FCC Testing Begin Date Phase Complete Date
One 4/13/2017 7/12/2017 9/17/2018 11/30/2018
Two 4/13/2017 7/12/2017 12/1/2018 4/12/2019
Three 4/13/2017 7/12/2017 4/13/2019 6/21/2019
Four 4/13/2017 7/12/2017 6/22/2019 8/2/2019
Five 4/13/2017 7/12/2017 8/3/2019 9/6/2019
Six 4/13/2017 7/12/2017 9/7/2019 10/18/2019
Seven 4/13/2017 7/12/2017 10/19/2019 1/17/2020
Eight 4/13/2017 7/12/2017 1/18/2020 3/13/2020
Nine 4/13/2017 7/12/2017 3/14/2020 5/1/2020
Ten 4/13/2017 7/12/2017 5/2/2020 7/3/2020

Low Power operators with no class A assignment are sadly left out of the FCC refund agreement completely. The FCC refused to give the same primacy to Low Power that it gave to High Power. Except for having a date when you can change your channel and move to where you will (hopefully) stay, it seems this article offers very little in good news for LPTV.

If you are in the LPTV category, there is some good news for you. ATSC 3.0 is your future. It offers more than just the same old broadcasting (we will talk more about that in future issues). The important thing is not to wait until the very end of the phases to get new transmitters, antennas and engineering crews.

Nearly everyone expects this to take longer than the FCC has allowed, but the expectation is not reality, yet. The FCC says they would be willing to grant more time, but not until it is clear more time is necessary. Yet, stations in Phase one and two, and in some cases from stages three and four as well, are making an effort to either stay ahead of the timeframe or meet a tighter timeframe set out by Mobile One.

The capabilities of Next Gen TV are very exciting and early preparation and implementation will be key to meeting or exceeding the FCC’s proposed timeline. The future is very bright whether you are High Power, Class A, or LPTV.

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Dear Fellow LPTV Broadcaster and Industry Leaders,

The auction has ended and most of us are still here.  While it was not only our hope but the hope of many others that the auction would not take place . . . it did, but it did not have the devastating effect that it might have had. 

The world after the auction looks different and amazingly so has a very bright future!

What does that future look like?  Not only the amazing possibilities of ATSC 3.0 but the landscape of a nation of people who are increasingly cutting their cable cords and looking for free, over the air, broadcasting content.

That’s why it’s more important than ever that you join the Advanced Television Broadcast Alliance.  Our board of directors have a combined 500+ years of experience which beginning with your membership we are going to start making more available to our members on an increasing basis.

Soon as an ATBA member, you will be eligible to start tapping into not only this brain trust through unique services available only to our members but regular news updates regarding our collective broadcast future.  We are exploring new ways to tap into information from Washington as well as important updates that will benefit you right there where you live.

The need for the ATBA has increased with the new opportunities that are becoming available for those of us who still know that the future of LPTV, Class A and Translators is bright!  Are you selling your station to local sponsors?  Are you maximizing your spectrum to the advantage that you truly can?  Are you struggling with FCC rules and regulations that you either don’t understand or can’t get explained?

The ATBA is developing a database of information to help you find the answers you need! 

In addition we are still working with the true decision makers in Washington.  Your ATBA has earned the respect and the ear of the true movers and shakers that continue to shape our collective broadcasting future.

So what can you do to get involved and begin to take advantage of these, and many other, benefits?  Join the ATBA today!  Your membership benefits will include:

  1. Members only access to hundreds of years of LPTV experience through our new “Brain Trust”
  2. Early entry to our annual NAB LPTV evening event with access to our special event guest(s)
  3. Exclusive digital content regarding real world information you need to know
  4. Eligibility for recognition for your hard work through our ATBA LPTV Awards
  5. Access to equipment manufacturers with discounts available especially for ATBA members!

To be honest you can’t afford not to be a member of the ATBA! 

We’re making it affordable because it’s a win – win!  When you join, you’re going to receive more than just the benefits listed above but also you’ll be aligning with hundreds of others who, like yourself, have a vested interest in the continued forward movement of free, over-the-air broadcasting.  It’s a win for your ATBA because we will increase our strength through numbers as we grow together.

So what’s the next step?  If you’re ready follow this link https://www.broadcastingalliance.org/join-us/ to sign up.  If you have more questions please don’t hesitate to call a member of the ATBA board of directors by calling this number (877) 214-4277.   You’ll get a rapid response!

Thanks for taking the time to read this note and for your ongoing passion for the future of communication in this great country.


The Board of Directors – The Advanced Television Broadcast Alliance